New Parent Support Program helps families

Wednesday, September 16, 2015 - 10:32
  • The New Parent Support Program is available for military families with infants and toddlers ages three and younger. PHOTO FOR THE STAR FROM WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

New babies bring new challenges, especially for parents who are having their first child, or have been isolated from familial support for one reason or another.

Trying to deal with these challenges while balancing the responsibilities of a career or military service adds a whole new level of complexity.

The people who work at the Family Advocacy Program at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska understand this. That’s why they offer a host of programs to give families every conceivable opportunity to have as much success in their personal life as they can have in their professional life.

“Our primary focus is to enable families to have healthy lives while also reducing risk of potential maltreatment,” said Jennifer Frysz, a Family Advocacy outreach manager.

One such program is the New Parent Support Program.

In this program, new parents can meet with a registered nurse and discuss their concerns, fears, or methodology in handling a pregnancy and the first three years of a child’s life, Frysz said.

The NPSP is available to parents from pregnancy to the time their child turns three years old and can participate in the program for however long they feel is necessary, whether that is a visit or two to the hospital during pregnancy or an extended mentoring relationship with the RN throughout the entire three-year process.

“They don’t have to access the service right when the baby is born or when they are pregnant,” said Sarah Blanning, also a Family Advocacy outreach manager. “If the child is two and they decide they still have some questions or they are experiencing some more challenges they didn’t have before, they still have eligibility until the child is three.”

During the program, parents can either visit the family advocacy office at the JBER hospital, or they can set up home visits with their registered nurse.

As long as the RN is there, the family will work exclusively with that particular RN until the family decides they no longer require assistance.

There are five nurses assigned to the NPSP whose sole job is to provide assistance and counsel to new families both in the office and during home visits, Frysz said.

“The NPSP is their baby, so to speak,” Frysz said.

The NPSP can also help with extenuating circumstances which might be unique to that particular family and thus difficult to find information elsewhere.

“We call in the troops when we need help right?” Frysz said. “In the same way NPSP can help with breastfeeding issues, childproofing a home, even information on things like car seats and introducing a child to your pets. There’s so many elements that factor into a family’s development.”

The program also offers therapeutic assistance - developmental and mental - to the parents or the children. For example, if the child is not physically developing properly, the NPSP can help.

“They’ll try to figure out where that child is developmentally and refer other services who also can go to the home and work with that child to help push them through developmentally,” Frysz said.

As extensive as it is, the NPSP is really just one resource service members can take advantage of; there are so many programs at the family advocacy office that they have to categorize them.

One program which goes hand-in-hand with the NPSP is the “Dads: The Basics” class for expecting fathers, taught by men who have been there themselves.

During the class, dads learn positive communication skills for the unique challenges of pregnancy, labor, caring for an infant and keeping a baby safe.

“We could teach you stress management tools, and it’s going to help improve your family,” Blanning said. “We can talk to you about time management and it can make you a better parent.”

He continued, “Family advocacy is all about getting back to mission readiness, so [the family] can function and [the service member] maintain a career of longevity,” Blanning said.

“Good things happen when people trust that services are there to help.”

For more information on programs offered by the Family Advocacy Program, call 907-580-5858 during duty hours.

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