by Michael Medwick, First Five Nebraska – written for the Preschool Development Grant newsletter
Planning for and guiding the early development of young children can be hard—even overwhelming—for many parents. This is particularly true for families with limited resources, or for parents taking on this important role for the first time. We need to think strategically about how we can make it easier for parents to understand children’s developmental needs and navigate through the sometimes daunting array of services and supports available to them.
This is the thinking behind Learning Begins at Birth, a forthcoming resource guide that will be made available later this year to new and expectant parents statewide as part of Nebraska’s federal Preschool Development Grant. The resource is being produced by a multi-organizational work group representing Nebraska Extension, the Nebraska Young Child Institute, Nebraska Departments of Education and Health and Human Services, Nebraska Children and Families Foundation, First Five Nebraska and other partners.
“Our goal was to produce an up-to-date, accurate and easy-to-use resource,” said Amy Napoli, Associate Professor and Early Childhood Extension Specialist at University of Nebraska—Lincoln. Napoli leads the team responsible for redeveloping and updating booklet’s content. “It’s intended to provide practical and important information for parents every step of the way—from the prenatal months through age 5. That covers maternal well-being, monitoring children’s health and nutrition, safety, parent-child interactions, choosing quality child care, and even self-care for parents.”
The resource also includes information on how to access programs and services that support new parents. “Raising a young child takes a huge amount of focused attention and effort,” said Napoli. “That becomes even harder when raising children with special needs. Trying to wade through information on developmental screenings or nutrition assistance programs can put a lot of pressure on any parent—even those with strong networks of support. We want Learning Begins at Birth to offset some of those pressures for Nebraska families.”
According to Adam Feser, Policy Associate at First Five Nebraska, Learning Begins at Birth reflects research showing that informed parenting plays a crucial role in children’s developmental outcomes. But there are larger implications to consider as well. “Well-prepared, informed parenting also helps build stronger, nurturing families and cohesive communities,” said Feser, who co-leads the project workgroup. “State statute mandates that every parent of a child born in this state receives this information. Considering that we have the fifth highest fertility rate in the nation, this is about the long-term success of our state and its citizens.”
Although Learning Begins at Birth has been available since 2003 as a downloadable document, the current project marks the first, coordinated effort to disseminate a fully revised version to the families it was intended for.
“The Preschool Development Grant is an opportunity to create a new and better resource and put a physical copy of it into parents’ hands at no cost to them or the agencies helping us distribute it,” said Feser.
The project workgroup will collaborate with local health departments, birthing hospitals, clinics, WIC centers, home visiting initiatives and other service providers to distribute the booklet in both English and Spanish toward the end of 2019. Depending on the availability of continued funding, the resource may be offered in additional languages and formats in the coming year.
If you represent an agency serving new and expectant parents and would like to participate in distributing copies of Learning Begins at Birth, contact Michael Medwick, Senior Communications Associate, First Five Nebraska at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What Learning Begins at Birth includes:
- Prenatal health and well-being
- Planning the birth of your child
- Choosing a delivery setting
- Preparing your home for a new child
- Understanding children’s nutrition and healthcare needs
- Guiding children’s development from birth to age 5
- Supporting early brain development and skill formation
- Parent-child interactions that build social-emotional and mental health
- Recognizing quality child care options
- Managing your physical and emotional health as a parent
- How to access parenting resources and supports in your community