Children’s Trust gathered its home visiting partners around the state June 27-29 for a learning and sharing experience that offered rejuvenation and camaraderie. Neil White, who tells the stories of the organization, covered the event.
NORTH CHARLESTON – The stars were out this week at the Home Visiting All Sites Assembly. Rock stars, that is.
The annual three-day retreat hosted by Children’s Trust for its 16 sites funded by the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) federal grant featured the child-serving professionals who are improving child health and uplifting families across South Carolina.
The 110 event attendees at the North Charleston Marriott received the opportunity to communicate with peers, work toward collective goals, and receive training and professional development, as they were celebrated by Children’s Trust with a “Rock Star” theme for their spirited and passionate commitment to serving moms and young children.
“They all come here as rock stars. They already have their greatest hits,” said Amber Schrenkel, the home visiting resource coordinator for Children’s Trust. “What we have to do here is remaster and remix. We add a little something new, change a little bit of a riff here and there. We really feature that encouragement part and always build in some fun, having them do some challenges that put them outside their comfort zone.”
Sara Trinkl Juneau, community engagement director at The Parenting Place in Pickens, which implements the Healthy Families America home visiting model, appreciated picking up the good vibrations from colleagues across the state.
“What I get out of it is the re-energization, and just networking to see what other sites are doing well,” Juneau said. “It’s always a great place for sharing, finding out areas where we’re maybe not performing so well, how the other sites are handling those challenges, and we get to share the strengths that we have. It’s just fun to get in one big room together, feed off the energy of each other, and show the amount of passion that all of us have.”
As South Carolina’s lead agency for MIECHV since 2010, Children’s Trust supports three evidence-based home visiting models – Healthy Families America, Nurse-Family Partnership, and Parents As Teachers – in partnership with implementing agencies in 41 counties. These voluntary program models serve at-risk, low-income mothers and children by providing them with important resources and skills.
Home visitors – who can be nurses, social workers, or child development specialists – support preventive health and prenatal practices, help parents understand developmental milestones, promote the use of positive parenting techniques, and work with mothers to set goals for the future, continue their education, and find employment and child care solutions.
The three days were filled with presentations, breakout sessions, and roundtable discussions that included topics like engaging teen parents, families with special needs, adverse childhood experiences, messaging and advocacy, post-partum depression, engaging the Latino population, and leading through change. Schrenkel said the assembly’s goal is to “inform, encourage and ignite.”
Virginia Berry White, director of Family Solutions of the Low Country in Orangeburg, which implements the Nurse-Family Partnership model, stated that she gathers useful information every year she attends the assembly.
“I’m always looking to learn new things, or just learning how to revise some of the old things that we’re doing, that we’ve been doing for a very long time. I value the experts in the room,” White said. “Just learning how to engage families, learning how to really engage the workers that we’re working with, is so valuable to me.”
Many of the participants appreciated the open discussions at the dozen roundtables, and they received the chance to rotate to different tables.
Ebony Brooks, parent educator with Family Connection of South Carolina, which operates the Parents as Teachers model in the counties of York, Chester, Lancaster and Chesterfield, took notes on a number of topics and strategies that will assist her. Family Connection’s mission is to change lives by making connections, raising awareness and promoting inclusion for those with disabilities and special health care needs.
“It’s definitely been beneficial to help us get structured, gain ideas, find support and learn best practices,” Brooks said. “I can discuss these with the team and the supervisor, and we can figure out what would be the best for us.”
Leticia Urroz, the family support specialist supervisor for MUSC Children’s Health, which implements the Healthy Families America model in Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester counties, found it particularly useful for program administrators and home visitors in the field to join together in discussions so they could learn things from different perspectives, such as the issue of why it’s important to record and collect data.
Urroz called the assembly an opportunity for everyone to push the reset button and take new information back to the sites. National experts from the home visiting models also attended the event, which featured input from Marilyn Stephenson with the Maternal and Child Health Bureau of the Health Resources and Services Administration.
The U.S. Congress reauthorized MIECHV funding in February for five additional years, which will allocate Children’s Trust approximately $8 million each year to grant to local partners in South Carolina.
There were 16,125 home visits made in South Carolina during the most recent fiscal year to 2,032 families and 2,071 children. Fewer children in the program were born prematurely, they were sleeping more safely, and they were making far fewer visits to the emergency room – just the kind of results that gave bipartisan support to reauthorization.
Children’s Trust provides MIECHV funding to these local implementing agencies across South Carolina: All Children’s Pediatrics; Carolina Health Centers; A Child’s Haven; Eau Claire Cooperative Health Centers; Family Connection of South Carolina; Family Solutions of the Low Country/S.C. Office of Rural Health; Georgetown Pediatric Center, St. James – Santee Family Health Center; Greenville Health System; Little River Medical Center; Low Country Health Care System; McLeod Nurse-Family Partnership; Medical University of South Carolina; Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital Outpatient Center; The Parenting Place; S.C Department of Health and Environmental Control – Lowcountry; and Spartanburg County First Steps.
Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting is a program of Children’s Trust of South Carolina and is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under CFDA # 93.870, Grant # X10MC29503. This information or content and conclusions are those of the author and should not be construed as the official position or policy of, nor should any endorsements be inferred by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government.