RONAN — Building the family spirit from womb to toddler through mentorship and goal-oriented lessons for young Native parents is the mission of the Healthy Young Parent Program.
“We want to create a safe space and ask how can we support you,” said Adriana Fehrs, Healthy Young Parent Program Manager.
The new Healthy Young Parent Program is the first tribal-cultural evidence based home visiting parent training and support program for pregnant young Native women and spouses that uses the Family Spirit curriculum. A training that is tailored to intervention methods and used by trained Native paraprofessionals.
“Our program supports young Native mothers and fathers navigate the hardships of life and parenting,” Fehrs said.
HYPP is a behaviorally focused intervention that is responsive to parents’ and children’s needs, Fehrs explained.
In a nutshell HYPP goals are to promote the healthy development of the client’s children, prepare them for early school success, promote prenatal and postnatal healthcare, and to promote parenting skills and their children’s behavioral skill while providing assistance by linking their clients to local resources.
“This program is one small step we are taking to break historical and intergenerational traumas,” Fehrs said.
“Our young parents need all the support and education they can get,” said Aggie Incashola, Healthy Young Parents Home Visitor.
Incashola said she took the position to be trained in the Family Spirit curriculum developed from John Hopkins University Center for American Indian Health from the desire to be a positive influence for young tribal parents.
Incashola said she finds strength in her role as a Native woman and feels she can impart a positive role for young mothers and mothers to be through HYPP.
“I can share personal, real life experiences with them which can help build a bond with them ,” Incashola said. “By having that bond, trust will be built in our relationships.”
“Some families worry that they will be sitting down with a home visitor to be lectured at for an hour. This isn’t the case with our program,” Fehrs said. “All of our home-visits are interactive and fun. We provide fun activities, which build parenting skills, while allowing our clients to showcase their own skills and knowledge. Our visits are an opportunity for our clients to feel supported as a parent, whether that’s working through an issue with one of our home visitors, learning something new, or receiving support.”
Incashola said she believes in building a strong relationship with the young parents and promoting a comfortable environment for them to grow.
“They will be more willing to voice their opinions, ask questions and so forth,” Incashola said, adding that through this relationship building young parents are more likely to enjoy and soak up the education the Family Spirit curriculum aims to impart.
Shawn Matt, Healthy Young Parents Home Visitor, said, “It’s always nice when you can give back to your people in a positive manner.”
Matt said being a father and a husband is an effective bonus to the Family Spirit curriculum for the young parents to gain from.
“I feel that as a father I represent a good role model, and my wife and I have been together since high school which is 22 years,” Matt said. “So it in itself is a great accomplishment. I hope that young parents will see that, and hope that is something they want to work toward.”
“If we can help just one family out of the cycle of abuse and poverty then we are making a positive impact on our community,” Fehrs said.
Fehrs said it is the HYPP team’s hope to build and support thriving young Native families. “Overall, we want to provide support to our families for a better, healthier, future for our children to which they can flourish in,” she said.
“It is a great program and it offers very good and helpful information,” Incashola said. “It’s also nice that we meet them on their terms. They don’t have to come to our office.”
Clients are enrolled through an in-take appointment with Fehrs then referred to a Home Visitor. The Home Visitor contacts the client and arranges an initial meet at place of their choice and comfort.
“We meet them where they’re at,” Incashola said.
“I think that as a people and the way we parent is different and the family spirit program is geared toward us as a people because it was made by Indian people,” Matt said. He said he especially likes the curriculum is packed with Native family values.
Many of the lessons have cultural components that foster confidence in the parents and offer encouragement with the lessons. “We are also there if they may need just a social visit,” Incashola said.
Fehrs said those who enroll benefit greatly from the program by building their self-efficacy; clients learn parenting skills and other important life skills from their one-on-one sessions with their Home Visitor.
Through the Family Spirit curriculum clients show increased parenting knowledge and involvement; decreased maternal depression; increased home safety; decreased emotional and behavioral problems of mothers; and decreased emotional and behavioral problems of children, Fehrs said.
“Clients receive specialized one-on-one support; many clients receive assistance with leveraging local resources, social support, and material needs,” Fehrs said. “Our clients also have the opportunity to connect with other young parents to which they can build networks and a peer support system.”
The HYPP parents earn incentives through the program and a stipend at completion. Monthly family connection times are scheduled to bring the young families together to grow and get to know one another at fun group events. There are quarterly community events partnered with CSKT Department of Human Resource Development Home Visiting Program. Next community event will be announced soon.
The Healthy Young Parent Program is under the Confederated Salish and Kootenai DHRD and funded from the Office of Adolescent Health Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services Program and runs until June 30, 2020.
For more information visit the Healthy Young Parent Program website at http://www.csktdhrd.org/social-services/healthy-young-parent-program/about or visit the Family Spirit program’s website at https://www.jhsph.edu/research/affiliated-programs/family-spirit/.
Or email Adriana Fehrs, HYPP Program Manager at Adriana.firstname.lastname@example.org.