Northside, Notre Dame team up to mentor new moms

Published 8:08 pm Saturday, November 1, 2003

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Northside Child Development Center in Niles is involved in a project through the University of Notre Dame that aims at making new mothers more comfortable with parenting skills.
The project, called Mentor-A-Mom, will give 28 mothers who are in their tri-mester and don't have a high school diploma, the chance to receive mentor advice on how to get their child ready for school.
The project, which will also serve as the foundation for a University of Notre Dame study on intervention programs for children between 0 and three years old, is expected to begin early next year, said Cindy Wickham, Northside's principal
Wickham is glad Northside is involved with the program because she said the school has tried to get a mentoring program for mothers going for a while.
Jeanne Mattei, a parent facilitator at the University of Notre Dame's Center for Children and Families, said the project and research is made possible through a grant from the Department of Human Health Services.
That includes early language development, preventing non-reportable neglect, such as not talking enough or reading enough to a young child, and learning parents to recognize developmental milestones, she said.
Mattei said those involved with the project are currently looking for a person from Niles to be a local parent facilitator.
Such a person doesn't necessarily need a college degree, she said, but experience working with at-risk children is needed.
Mattei thinks the reason Niles was chosen for the program is because " they have resources, but not the resources a larger community has."
Mattei said she has already been in contact with Niles Community Schools' Alternative and Adult Education director, Richard Klemm, the Pregnancy Care Center and the local Health Department in Niles to make them aware that the program will be available.
Christine Noira is the project coordinator and works under John Borkowski, a professor of Psychology at Notre Dame whose work has focused on how to get young children ready for school.
Noira, who has a background in psychology, said she knows how important it is for children to get a good start.
Noira said one of the important aspects of the program is to avoid life-long developmental problems and avoiding the long term costs of getting children "back on track."
Those who are involved with the program hope the study, which it will take several years to complete, will provide enough evidence to convince people similar intervention programs are worth funding.
Northside Child Development Center is currently in the process of contacting mothers who would fit the criteria for being accepted to the program.