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Come together to keep Southwest Florida’s babies safe

September 23, 2015
By JULIE SCHNEIDER , Lehigh Acres Citizen

Approximately 6,350 babies were born in Lee County last year.

This is certainly cause for celebration! Whether we call them "gifts from God" or "miracles" or "bundles of joy," over 6,350 beautiful babies instinctively have placed their trust in their parents to care for them, nurture them and see to all of their needs.

Unfortunately, not every parent is prepared for the joys and stressors of parenthood. Sometimes, the demands of parenting can be overwhelming for moms and dads - especially first-time parents, young parents or those without a healthy support system to lean on. Not every parent has a loving family and friends to guide, support and assist them. Sometimes, parents are still struggling to cope with the trauma they experienced during their own childhood. They may have never had a positive role model to teach them, enough to eat or encouragement to complete school. They may have been severely physically, sexually or emotionally abused or neglected. They know they do not want this same thing for their children, they know they do not want to repeat this cycle, but often times they lack the resources and know-how to ensure a different outcome.

Parents in Lee County who may be struggling are very fortunate to be a part of such a caring community. For these parents - and there are hundreds in our community - Children's Home Society of Florida partners with Ounce of Prevention Fund and the United Way to provide the hope and guidance they need through the Healthy Families Florida program.

Healthy Families Florida is a nationally accredited in-home visiting program for expectant parents and parents of newborns experiencing stressful life situations.

For the past 15 years, we've helped thousands of children and parents in Southwest Florida. Healthy Families Collier/Lee served over 225 families this past year. Our Healthy Families program provides consistent and ongoing coaching, mentoring, education, activities and more to parents raising babies and toddlers. Parents voluntarily participate in Healthy Families so they can learn how to recognize and respond to their babies' changing developmental needs, use positive discipline techniques, cope with the day-to-day stress of parenting in healthy ways, and set and achieve short- and long-term goals. We help connect these parents to other services and helping organizations within our community.

As our nation recognizes Baby Safety Awareness Month, I challenge you to lend a helping hand. If you know someone struggling with the stressors of raising small children, extend help. Provide an afternoon of baby-sitting services or take over a meal. Refer your friend or neighbor to a local program like Healthy Families. Help parents understand that they are not alone when it comes to their baby's safety and well-being. Let's come together as a community. Over 6,350 miracles are counting on us!

Julie Schneider is the executive director of the Children's Home Society of Florida's Southwest Division.



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