Protecting our Children: Pinal County Healthy Families Program

4/9/2008

NOTE: National County Government Week is April 6 – 12. This year’s theme is Protecting our Children. This release is part of a multi-part series that examines how Pinal County Government works to protect and serve children in the county.

FLORENCE – More than 406* children have a healthier future because their mother or father took advantage of the Pinal County Health District’s Healthy Families Program. The program is a successful, voluntary program serving families at risk during pregnancy and after the birth of a baby. Over the years, Pinal County has expanded the program to reach even more families, including those who live on the reservations.

The Healthy Families Program strengthens families during the first five years of a child’s life, when most early brain development occurs. Highly-trained home visitors help mentor families that have risk factors such as domestic violence, substance abuse, teen pregnancy, financial strains or other barriers to healthy lifestyles. The goal is to help families attain their goals of becoming protective and nurturing parents. Services include:

  • Child development
  • Nutrition and safety education
  • Childhood immunizations
  • Coaching on appropriate parent-child interaction
  • Effective, acceptable forms of discipline
  • Encouraging self-sufficiency through education and employment
  • Emotional support for parents
  • Referrals to specialists for children with developmental delays
  • Linking families with community services, such as health care, child care and housing

For over a decade, annual evaluations have shown the effectiveness of the statewide program, which is funded by the Arizona Department of Economic Security. Indicators in child and health development have demonstrated that children in the program have an 88 percent immunization rate at 18 months of age, compared to 79 percent for two-year-olds in the state and 82 percent for those on AHCCCS.

An assessment of home safety practices highlights the fact that 90 percent of the participants in the Healthy Families Program are reducing risks to children by using car seats, locking up poisonous chemicals and installing smoke alarms in their homes. Other research shows that participants consistently report improvements in healthy parenting behavior and have reduced risk factors related to child abuse and neglect.

Program participants show improvement in areas such as mobilizing resources, social support, increased parenting competence, improved problem-solving and improved parent-child interaction. There is also evidence of a decrease in depression.

The Healthy Family Program and related services are available in the following communities: Maricopa, Stanfield, Casa Grande, Arizona City, Eloy, Coolidge, Florence, Queen Creek, Johnson Ranch, Apache Junction, Queen Valley, Superior and Gila River Indian Community.

For more information about the Healthy Families program, please contact Mary Allen at 520-866-7951.

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*The Healthy Families Program served 207 families with 406 children in the household in 2007.

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