As a home visitor for the Crete Young Parents program, Stephanni Renn has been able to make a major difference in her community, one family at a time. Now, she’ll take over the coordination of the Sixpence-funded program. So while she’ll still get to do the home visitation work she’s so passionate about, Stephanni will now be able to put her dedication and expertise to use in new ways to benefit the whole program.
We had a chance to talk to Stephanni about her work and her life. Here’s what we learned:
HOW DID YOU GET INTO HOME VISITATION?
I started as a van driver, believe it or not, for the Head Start program for Blue Valley Community Action. I did that for a year and moved into their teacher assistant position and taught head start for 6 years. Then I moved into Early Head Start, and did home visiting with that program. I was with Blue Valley Community Action for 11 years. I got a good base there. I just happened to be sitting on the same board that the school sat on when Crete had an influx of teen pregnancies. The school decided they were going to write a grant for Sixpence funds. I was fortunate to be interviewed and selected for the position. Honestly, it was a dream come true.
HOW IS DOING HOME VISITATION DIFFERENT THAN IN CLASSROOM?
With home visitation, you get to be more intimate with families and get to know them on a more personal level. You become more of a support system for them and help them access different resources in the community. We work on Beautiful Moments, and that helped me change the way I do those home visits. You can help parents catch themselves being good parents and find those beautiful moments with their kids.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
Building foundations! That’s what we do for a lot of families we work with. It starts at home. We’re trying to bridge this gap between home and school. We’re trying to teach these parents to be their babies first teachers. I also love working with babies. They’re never boring. They’re always changing, everything is new to them. They’re always hitting milestones, they’re constatntly learning something new. It is so exciting to watch the parent see their child learn and respond, “My baby is so smart!”
WHAT’S THE BOTTOM LINE WHEN IT COMES TO A HOME VISITOR’S JOB?
We build relationships that last. The parents may not remember every milestone we talk about, but the important stuff sticks.
WHERE DOES YOUR PASSION FOR THIS WORK COME FROM?
My sister was a teen mom, so that may be where I get some of my passion. It was a struggle for her and I can remember what it was like growing up in a house with a sister who was just a little older than me who had a baby. It was hard! There were not programs like this around. My mom and dad helped pay for daycare. She graduated from high school, got married, moved on to have a career, but it was HARD WORK. We all had to pitch in. Not all young parents have that support from their families.
WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO DO IN THE NEXT FEW YEARS?
I will become the coordinator for the Sixpence program in Crete, so that is very exciting. We got the expansion grant from Sixpence, and I’m excited about those changes. We have a new home visitor starting, so I’ll supervise 2 people and have my own caseload. Things are never boring! It will be a different kind of year. So it’s like, OK, here we go!
WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR FREE TIME?
I have five children, believe it or not. Two are older step children, so they help keep us sane. Julia goes to college in Minnesota and will be 21 in February. Nick will be 25 in November. My younger kids are 11, 8 and 6. Baseball and softball season is in full swing right now, so that takes a lot of our time! My husband and I both have large families so we like to spend a time with them . . . and eat! We do a lot of fishing and camping.My husband loves to ice fish, so we got to Minnesota to do that when we go see my husband’s brothers.