OGDEN -- Flor Vara was only 15 when she become pregnant with her son. She admits she knew little to nothing about being a parent, so when an interventionist from Prevent Child Abuse called her and offered to give her parenting tips and some special help she didn't hesitate to accept it.
Vara is part of a growing number of new parents in the Ogden area receiving help from Prevent Child Abuse Utah's program, "Healthy Families," a pilot program in the state of Utah set up to help new and sometimes young parents to learn how to be parents.
Prevent Child Abuse Director Trina Taylor said they get referrals from hospitals, and many from Midtown Clinic, of new mothers that have certain risk factors that would be a good fit for the program.
Although the program has been going strong for about six years, a new component has been added that is making it extra successful.
Taylor said people in the community often will call her offices and want to help monetarily in some way. But, because they work closely with state programs, they are limited in what can be accepted. One day she and he staff were discussing this, when an idea for a store was proposed.
Some office space was donated and they created a store with baby items and some other household items that new moms can use. But in order to access the store, the moms have to complete certain milestones within the Healthy Families program to earn "money" for the store. The money is not real money, but the bucks are earned by meeting with their counselors every week, coming to the monthly group sessions, volunteering at the center or the store or completing other milestones with their children, significant other or family support.
Taylor loves the idea because it helps teach the new moms some self-sufficiency but also gives the community a chance to donate. In the last six months some church groups have held "baby showers" where women from the group bring in baby gifts to be donated to the store. Others call and offer to donate items. One woman that helped put the store together donates hand-made crafts for the new moms to use in their homes.
Families from the "Safe Families" program, a shorter, six-month intervention program set up for families that are in crisis can also access the store and earn bucks in the same way.
One woman, who asked to not have her name revealed, has been with "Healthy Families" for about four years now and has utilized the store much in the last few months. She recently graduated from the program and said she loves what she learned.
"They taught me how to be a good mom," the woman said with emotion.
Taylor said the program is at capacity right now and they are serving about 20 moms. There is a waiting list, she said. She said she may lose funding for the program in the next year or so, but hopes that there will be other grants available.
"It affects so many," Taylor said.
For information on the programs visit Prevent Child Abuse Utah's website at www.preventchildabuseutah.org.