My name is Gwen Hadrits, I am originally from Minnesota and have lived in the Polson area for 5 years now. My husband and I moved out here to be in the mountains since we both enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing, hunting, camping, snowmobiling, and skiing. I have a bachelor’s degree in Social Work with a minor in Psychology. I have worked with young children and their families since I was in high school; I have been a nanny, worked in a preschool, worked in a youth group home, and now work as a Home Visitor for the Lake County Public Health Department.
Describe the work you do with families and children…highlight the services…how does it work?…who receives it….if there is a special focus/service please explain it to someone that might be unfamiliar.
Parents as Teachers is a free home visiting program where parents or caregivers can receive support while raising their children aged prenatal through kindergarten. Visits last about an hour and are typically every other week.
What a parent/caregiver can expect at a visit:
· A fun learning activity to do with the child that is based on their age and skill set.
· Information about their child’s current growth and development and ways they can support their child’s milestones through play.
· Screenings to assess their child’s milestones physically (are they crawling), socially (are they playing with other kids and talking), and emotionally (can they comfort themselves or ask a parent for comfort). If needed families are then connected to resources to assist in delays.
· Screenings to assess the parent/caregiver’s emotional status and ability to cope (depression or anxiety), living situation, and relationships with household/family members (positive and negative). If needed families are then connected to appropriate resources and services.
· The family receives a new book.
Outcomes we hope for:
· Kindergarten readiness.
· Families who are connected to appropriate services in their area.
· Parents and caregivers who are bonded to their children and can support their needs.
· Parents and caregivers who play and read with their children.
· Parents and caregivers that are knowledgeable about their child’s development and can anticipate changes and promote the change through play, reading, and toys.
Other services offered:
· Childbirth support, information, and referrals.
· Breastfeeding support, information, and referrals.
· Family planning resources and information.
· Assisting the adult with gaining employment or higher education (GED or college).
· Information, support, and referrals for sleeping, eating, childcare, home safety, health, or any other parenting concerns.
What do you think people misunderstand about the work being done with children age 0-5?
There is often times stigma surrounding home visiting services. Clients often think they are being judged, either on how they interact with their children, or how their home is kept. While I am a mandated reporter, I am non-judgmental and I do not care if the home is cluttered or if yesterday’s dishes are still in the sink. Clients are sometimes under the impression that I am reporting back to their CPS case worker (if they have one), but unless they ask a specific question, I have very little contact with the case worker.
In a general sense though, people fail to understand the benefit of early intervention. It is easier and usually cheaper to get children services regarding developmental delays early rather than waiting until they enter school and then it takes much more work to get the children back on track.
How would you describe the most important work that needs to happen for young children?
Young children need loving and supportive adults in their lives. Whether that is by blood or not, children need someone to give them positive attention and aid them in their development. Each and every one of us as adults can see how this has or would have benefited us in our lives today. You either are that for a child right already, or you can be if you step into that role!
If you could change one social factor impacting families and young children, what would it be and why?
It may seem small and irrelevant to most, but if every family with young children had the time, energy, ability, and initiative to read or tell stories to their children every day starting in infancy and going through school it would make a huge impact in their lives. Stories, both written and oral, give so much to children including a supported cognitive development, improved language and literacy skills, preparation for academic success, developing a special bond with your child, increased concentration and discipline, improved imagination and creativity, and can teach children how to cope with difficult or stressful experiences.
The work has many rewards-what are some of the challenges and how do you deal with them?
Specifically with home visiting, as mentioned above, the stigma attached to it is hard to overcome. Usually if I can get a warm handoff from wherever they are being referred from it makes it much easier. Often, I ask the families to give the program a shot and let me come one time and if we mesh well, I’ll come again, if not I’ll give them a list of other resources that they would be able to utilize. Another tactic that has worked well is asking the family to meet somewhere other than the family’s home like the park or my office.
What do you feel you personally get from working with families and children?
Joy and empowerment from knowing that I am helping the children and caregivers.