When Mercedes answers the knock at her door, her young son and daughter peer around her to see who is there. As they recognize Julie, the monthly home visitor from United Way’s Welcome Baby program, they quickly relax and start bringing out toys and books to play. Mercedes is also happy to see Julie, and the two start up a conversation like old friends.
Growing up in foster care, Mercedes moved several times from one community to another. With a lack of stability in her past, she wasn’t completely prepared for the challenges of parenting. Her two children, 3-year-old son C.J. and 15-month daughter Cherish, are just a year and a half apart in age. Mercedes learned a lot about parenting in a very short time. Shortly after her daughter was born, she started receiving monthly visits from Julie Johnson as part of the Welcome Baby program. She is now better prepared to help her kids learn and grow, explaining the program “gives me a better understanding of where Cherish should be” developmentally.
Mercedes has been participating in the Welcome Baby program for over a year, since Cherish was one month old. During visits, Mercedes learns about child development and parenting techniques, gets answers to questions, and learns about community assistance to meet some of her family’s needs. Mercedes loves the educational activities Julie brings for her kids, noting that this has “helped C.J. with his colors and shapes, and helps me spend quality time with my kids.” Sometimes they receive books as well, encouraging them to read together.
In the past three years, Mercedes has worked hard to overcome personal challenges and drug use. She can now provide her children with the stability and care they need. Welcome Baby visits are one of many resources that have helped her become a better parent. She says that Julie’s visits have done “more than just coming in and talking about my children’s development. She is a listening ear, helps provide things if I need them, tells me about resources.” Many new parents lack a support system to help them overcome the stress of taking care of young children. Welcome Baby fills this gap with one-on-one relationships and personalized assistance.
Things are looking good for Mercedes and her children. C.J. has just started preschool and is receiving extra help for some developmental delays. Cherish is also doing well and has benefited from play and learning activities with her mom.
As Mercedes’ home visit ends, Cherish runs over to Julie and begs to be picked up for one more hug. More than just a scheduled visitor, Julie has become a friend to help them through the demanding early years. “I just think that this program is amazing,” says a grateful Mercedes, and her kids seem to agree.