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SafeCare: Stronger families and brighter futures

We’ve all heard the saying “it takes a village” to raise a child. This was true before COVID-19 hit, and for most families it holds even more truth today. Parents and caregivers face more barriers than two years ago – like child care shortages, higher cost of living and smaller support networks. While SafeCare can’t solve all the world’s problems, we can share education and resources to make parenting easier and more enjoyable.

Jenn Heath

SafeCare is a free, voluntary parent support program for parents and caregivers with children younger than 6. At San Juan Basin Public Health, our parent support providers are flexible, and schedule home visits around each family’s need. Through SafeCare we support three key outcomes that are important for all families – health, safety and bonding.

Given the pandemic, it is no surprise that one of our most popular topics is health. Many new parents aren’t comfortable caring for their kids at home when they are sick or hurt – it is all part of the learning curve of parenting. We can help you pick out the early signs of sickness or injury, teach you to give basic care at home, and help you learn when your kid needs to be seen by their doctor or taken to the Emergency Room. We can also help stock your first aid cabinet with free health supplies like thermometers or medicine syringes. We know it is scary when your child is sick or hurt, and we want to help you feel confident to care for your child the best you can!

We also work with families to prevent common household injuries. As your baby grows, they quickly become curious toddlers who zip from one side of the room to the other before you can even blink – and sometimes it feels like no area of your house is out of bounds for their adventures. Our providers help families to find common safety and health risks in the home and can give you free supplies to childproof your house. We also talk with families and caregivers about how much supervision is needed for different ages, to help find the balance of encouraging your little one’s independence while also keeping them safe and sound.

Caring for your child’s health and safety is very important, and so is building your relationship with your child. Our last topic, bonding, helps parents and caregivers put in place age-appropriate routines, encourages parents and children to play and have fun together, and gives tips and tricks to add to your toolbox to have less challenging and more positive moments with your kid. To put it simply, the bonding topic is all about helping caregivers find the joy in parenting, and helps each family find milestones to celebrate on their journey.

SafeCare produces real results for parents of young children. One client, a single father who just turned 20, began the program with hesitation. He works full time and is parenting an 18-month-old child by himself and was feeling overwhelmed by his busy life as a young dad. He chose health for his first SafeCare topic and has already put the knowledge to use: once when his son had an ear infection and another time when the child fell at the playground. In both cases, what he learned in a SafeCare session and through the handbook helped him determine what to do next to care for his son.

This SafeCare client is feeling much more confident in himself as a parent and his abilities to make good parenting decisions. He is thriving from having a trusted, nonjudgmental, SafeCare provider to offer him encouragement and support. And he is just one of the many families that have benefited from SafeCare over the years.

We recognize that parenting can be very hard, but very rewarding – and we help build on each caregiver’s existing skills, knowledge and strengths to make parenting an even richer experience. If you would like more information about SafeCare, please visit sjbpublichealth.org/safecare or call 335-2041.

Jenn Heath is the SafeCare program manager for San Juan Basin Public Health. Reach her at jheath@sjbpublichealth.org.