On Valentine’s Day, CAPS’ Healthy Families’ leadership team showed some love to their staff, creating a mix of tears, laughter and applause. Thanks to a PNC Foundation grant, the program was able to provide their staff of 20 with the tools they need to teach and interact with their families.

“We want you to understand how much we care about you guys,” said Healthy Families’ Assistant Supervisor Tanya Machek during a team meeting. “We know it’s hard to do your job and we want to support you in everything we can.”

Then Machek signaled for a portable wall to fold back, revealing a room of baskets, totes, toys, and craft items. Small gasps turned into laughs, which evolved into applause and even tears.

Healthy Families’ family support specialists enrich the lives of the children they serve by encouraging and analyzing their physical and cognitive development through various activities using props, toys and craft items. They have always used their own money to purchase these items.

Until now.

“Because of the grant, we were able to purchase the items that we have always needed in order to complete the developmental screenings that we do,” said Senior Director Ellen Graber-McCrae.

Healthy Families is required to perform mandatory screenings which take place approximately every six months, in addition to initiating many other developmental activities. “For example,” said Graber-McCrae, “some of the skills that home visitors are required to observe are baby pulling a toy, interactive play with a baby doll and understanding their own self as a reflection in a mirror.”

Graber-McCrae noted that babies who encounter more learning opportunities at a young age have increased potential in the future as those experiences build neural pathways in the brain until the age of three.

Some other examples of how they use these items include using an oatmeal container to make a developmental toy, constructing a sensory experience using a bin of rice and a few trinkets, or even demonstrating to a mom using a “protective layers” prop to reveal how different actions and life circumstances can add — or take away — a layer of protection for their baby.

Because of this donation, “The supplies are (readily) available for me to do activities with the families I serve,” said Family Support Specialist Jo Black. “I’m able to do my job more efficiently.”

“I am just happy that we are finally able to provide our home visitors with all of the tools they need to do their jobs,” said Graber-McCrae. “(That morning) we were able to tell them that they would never have to spend their own money on supplies ever again.”

“(I am) truly grateful,” said Valeria Broadnax, family support specialist. “Let the fun begin!”


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