Local moms fighting for new baby program

Some local mothers are organizing a letter writing campaign, trying to save a program for newborns and their families which is threatened by funding cuts in the upcoming Legislature.

Virginia Crowe found the Family to Family Connection new baby center after the birth of her daughter, Lauren. She attends classes and groups in both the Carson City and Galena centers, and is upset over the news from the governor's office of plans to fold the new baby centers into family resource centers such as Carson's Ron Wood Family Resource Center during the 2001 Legislature.

"Nevada has highest teen dropout, one of the highest teen pregnancy rates," Crowe said. "That means there are a lot of young moms out there lacking resources, lacking support. It's really important to have the network with other mothers."

Crowe considers the new baby centers "the first step in raising healthy families.

"It seems the resource centers have a reactive approach, Family to Family is more proactive and preventative," Crowe said. "If you eliminate it, you're missing a huge step. It's a program for people of all backgrounds. If you cut it, you cut out a lot of people who wouldn't go to the Family to Family Resource Centers."

Carson City's new baby center is a place for families where talk of breast feeding flows freely and staff members offer workshops covering topics from infant CPR to child massage techniques. It's located at Western Nevada Community College. Decorated in blue, visitors are greeted by rocking chairs and child-friendly toys for all ages.

There are 13 state Family to Family Connection centers statewide, which run on $2.23 million a year funded by the 1997 Legislature. The centers deal with social and emotional issues for families with children from birth to one year old. Statewide, almost 12,000 families in 1999 were served at least once through the new baby centers.

Raponi said the centers' goal is to help parents learn proper methods of dealing with their newborns. That means helping in the bonding process and helping families of all social situations access other social and health care services. It's a program designed to help mothers learn about child development and helps connect new mothers. The program starts with a brief hospital visit after the birth of a baby and continues through workshops and even home visits, Raponi said.

"It can really help parents get off on the right foot," said Mary Kay Raponi, a new baby center supervisor. "So many new parents don't live near their own parents and this provides support for them. It's a program that works and does serve all Nevada families. This is a program that values women and children. Help the moms, and you'll have healthier children."

Kari Propeck's son, Alexander, was born small and had some other problems the new mother had a hard time dealing with.

That coupled with a 4-year-old daughter, KaiLee, a case of postpartum depression and the loss of her job pushed the Carson City resident to look for support groups after she decided to be a stay-at-home mom.

Propeck learned of the Family to Family Connection new baby center not too long after she had Alexander. It was through the center she discovered that she was not alone with her struggles.

"I found that if I spent time with women who know where I was coming from, I could cope," Propeck said. "I'm 36. My daughter was adopted. My son was my first live birth. If it hadn't been for the center, I wouldn't be able to be the kind of mom I am. If I need the support, it's here with this network of women."

For Crowe the center not only taught her new ways to raise Lauren, 16 months, but also helped in her in her transition from working woman to stay-at-home mom.

"Here there are organized activities and classes. You can go to a play group and just play, or you can come here and learn something, too," Crowe said. "I've learned so much, a lot of the development issues, learning more about how to play with kids. You can go to a mom's club and get advice, but you don't know if it's right. Here, you know it's correct.

"When I was working, I was trying to figure out whether or not to go back to work (after Lauren's birth). I didn't want to sit at home and do nothing.

"At work, you get a lot of social satisfaction, there's the kudos, 'You did a really good job on that project.' When you stay at home, you don't get the cheers. Then you come here and have people telling you you're doing a good job.

"I like this for the learning and the social interaction. I've been a more confident mom by coming here. Without the center, I probably would have gone back to work and been miserable because I wasn't with Lauren. My heart tells me I want to be with her, but I need the social interaction."

Crowe's filled her social gap with people like Cindy Rowe, mother of 18-month old John and 2-month-old Alyssa.

The center put both mothers in touch with multiple mothers' groups.

"I thought with Family to Family, I would get good information on babies and find other new moms," Rowe said. "It's not as easy as you think to find the groups. You can hear about the groups, but unless you meet someone who goes, you might not go. Here, they tell you about them."

Rowe has been a center regular since John's birth and has relied on the center's advice on everything from breast feeding to John's sleepless nights. She and Crowe also keep in touch with the Galena, Incline Village and Fallon centers.

"When you're traveling through the state, you know there's a place you can take your baby," Rowe said.

For information on the Family to Family Connection new baby centers, call 445-3286.


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