Parenting knowledge crucial for family success
More than 200 local families like Ashley, Cory and Heaven get the healthiest possible start with help from United Way.
First-time mom Ashley, struggling with pregnancy complications, gained valuable parenting tools and understanding to best prepare for the birth of her daughter, who at 3 months old was already standing and holding her own bottle.
The blessed pregnancy Ashley and her husband had long dreamed about became marred with health complications. Then fear.
High blood pressure. Asthma attacks. A nearly 20-pound weight loss due to acid reflux and morning sickness.
“I didn’t know what was going to happen,” Ashley recalls. “I just knew I wanted my baby to be OK.”
That mother’s love is what moved her to respond to a letter she received offering free prenatal classes. “I wanted to know what to expect when I had the baby,” she says.
About four months into her pregnancy, Ashley joined Dallas Healthy Start, a program of Parkland’s Women & Infants Specialty Health, which receives a grant from the United Way Community Impact Fund. She met with her case manager, Sherilyn, on a regular basis, learning about crib bumpers, the dangers of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and the pros and cons of breastfeeding and formula.
“It’s such a great program. You learn so much,” Ashley says. “Anyone who has never had a child before needs to go. There’s so much to know and learn.”
Program clients receive guidance, resources and support until the baby turns 2 years old. Most clients join in their first trimester, ensuring they have a long, stable relationship with their assigned case managers.
After Ashley’s pregnancy health problems subsided, she and her husband, Cory, welcomed a healthy, beautiful daughter, Heaven, in January 2012.
“She’s exactly as I dreamed,” says Cory, who has been by Ashley’s side throughout the program.
“I thought it was important for us to do the program together,” he says. “Thanks to United Way and Parkland, we learned how to best care for our baby.”
Eulalia Gillum-Roberson, Dallas Healthy Start community programs administrator, says the program used its United Way grant to enhance and expand service into more communities with a high risk of poor birth outcomes.
“The United Way grant enables the program to serve and secure medical homes for more than 200 additional women and infants,” she says. “Help from United Way also provides essential items that parents use to keep their babies healthy and developing normally — items they may not be able to afford.”
For example, Ashley, Cory and their fellow program parents received cribs, car seats and strollers when they successfully completed program milestones, including SIDS education and prenatal courses.
“Three big money savers,” says Ashley, who is taking online college courses in child care through Texas A&M University. Cory is an account manager — his second promotion in less than two years — for a security services business.
“When I tell people about this program, they don’t even realize something like this is offered,” Ashley says. “They’re so surprised.”
Through the program, Cory sees how his wife’s confidence rose as a first-time mom and it showed him the importance of continually learning and growing as a father. Growing up in an abusive home often plagued with no lights and no water and only a pack of crackers for a day’s meal, Cory found inner strength as a young teen that has only strengthened with time.
“I always knew I wanted to provide the best I could for my family one day,” he says. “Being a father is the happiest thing in my life. I’ve always wanted to be a dad.”