St. Joseph’s home visits prepare children to learn

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If you are a new parent in Valencia County, St. Joseph Community Health wants to know.

The nonprofit offers free home visits to first-time parents, starting during the prenatal period all the way to 3 years old.

Julia M. Dendinger-News-Bulletin photo: Working together to give children a head start in life are St. Joseph Community Health’s team of home visitors for Valencia County. From left, are team leader Uriskna Martinez, home visitors Carolyn Romero and Dee Grace, referral specialist Africa Quiroga and CEO Allen Sanchez. The third home visitor, Norma Gallegos, is not pictured.

St. Joseph’s CEO Allen Sanchez, a Valencia County resident, said the purpose of the free program is to deliver the support needed to get children ready to learn.

All of St. Joseph’s community health services are free, regardless of age, race, gender, religion, income or marital status.

The program provides information to families about physical and emotional changes during pregnancy, expectations of childbirth, fetal development, breast feeding, nurturing positive relationships and infant-through-toddler development.

It follows the curriculum of the First Born Program, written specifically for first-time parents from prenatal through 3 years of age to prepare their children for preschool years.

Services may begin any time during pregnancy or within the first two months after the baby is born.

Home visitors will meet clients once a week at the location and time of their choice, said home visitor Dee Grace.

The meetings can take place at the parents’ home, a restaurant or a local park, for instance, and at any time during the day or after work.

Once a family is enrolled in the home-visit program, they can be referred to services that provide support to help families access community services such as housing, food, income support, employment and education.

“We connect families to the resources they need,” Sanchez said. “Are they dealing with a food scarcity, lack of medical care, insufficient housing?”

Right now, there are three trained home visitors ready to meet new parents in Valencia County.

To enroll in the program, parents should call 924-8000 and talk to an intake specialist. Sanchez said the specialists speak English and Spanish.

The St. Joseph Community Health office is located at 1516 5th Street NW, Albuquerque, but parents don’t have to go into the office.

An intake specialist will go to their home, Grace said. Parents are welcome to come into the Albuquerque office if they are in the area.

Sanchez said the program is open to all new parents, not just those who have given birth.

That includes parents who adopt and family members who may have recently taken custody of a child, such as a grandchild, niece or nephew.

St. Joseph Community Health is part of Catholic Health Initiatives, but Sanchez emphasized that it was a secular program.

“We don’t come to your house and preach or proselytize,” he said. “We are there to educate and support parents.”

The program has three home visitors and one referral specialist assigned specifically to Valencia County, as well as other teams for Bernalillo and Sandoval counties. The Valencia County team is made up of county residents.


-- Email the author at jdendinger@news-bulletin.com.