Nurturing Center to run family program

Healthy Start, a program that provides support and education to new parents via home visits, soon will operate out of the Family Nurturing Center.

Now operated by La Clinica, Healthy Start serves about 150 Jackson County families. La Clinica managed the program for Spanish-speaking families for the first 11 years of its existence. In 2005, the organization took over complete management of the program.

The program will move to the Family Nurturing Center in October, said Traci Fossen of La Clinica.

Healthy Start is designed to increase children's readiness for school and improve the rate at which children receive regular health care.

Staffers check to make sure the children are up to date on immunizations and that they are read to regularly by a parent, Fossen said.

The Family Nurturing Center's focus on safety for families with young children makes it an ideal new partner for the program, Fossen noted.

The Family Nurturing Center is Jackson County's only relief and therapeutic nursery. It has supported the Healthy Start Program since FNC was created, said Anne Daugherty, the program's coordinator at La Clinica.

Last year, when the state reorganized its approaches to health and education programs, it moved Healthy Start's focus and funding to the Department of Education, along with other early-learning programs, which makes it a better fit for the Family Nurturing Center.

La Clinica, however, will continue to provide health care services to Healthy Start families, Daugherty said.

The coming together of these two programs is timely, given the statewide emphasis on early-childhood education and a focus on preparation for success in school, Daugherty said.

Clients are found by Healthy Start personnel who visit the Health Department and area hospitals. The free and voluntary program offers first-time parents educational information from pregnancy to the time their child is 3 years old, she said.

Healthy Start provides four home visits monthly for the first six months of an infant's life. The respite nursery has a separate program in place that provides one monthly visit to help parents create a home that focuses on the children and their parents, emphasizing safety, health, family relationships and education, said Mary-Curtis Gramley, the center's executive director.

Gramley and Daugherty added that federal funding may become available that would expand those home-visitation numbers. The program provides assistance to a couple's first child. Gramley said there may be funding that would extend services to include subsequent children.

"It has been my dream for three or four years to meld this program with ours at the Family Nurturing Center so that we can maximize the strength of both," said Gramley. "It's a really exciting opportunity for us to maximize the potential for blending and braiding resources."

Daugherty agrees that aligning services will allow Healthy Start parents to stay connected to La Clinica's medical assistance, while getting the benefits of early-intervention services and more at the therapeutic nursery.

"This (change) has the potential to be very cost-effective and use taxpayer money in a really wise way," Daugherty said. "Our outcomes are tremendous."

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or

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