Expectant moms to be paired with mentors

Published 7:48 am Saturday, November 13, 2004

By By SPIROS GALLOS / Niles Daily Star
NILES - Expecting mothers now have a valuable resource available to help them in their new role of raising children.
The Niles Area Mentor-a-Mom Program is a unique program which pairs an expecting mother with an experienced mother to develop and maintain a mentoring relationship from the time a child is born to when the child enters school.
Northside Child Development Center Principal Cindy Wickham and Family Services Coordinator Kathy Emmons have been designing the program for two years as a way to positively impact children's lives, and by doing so, positively impact the entire community.
Wickham said the program will benefit young mothers by providing them with the educational resources and support system necessary to help their children develop.
She said that research shows the years before a child goes to school is a critical time in the development of the brain.
Wickham, who will act as the program coordinator, helped develop a similar program in 1997 when in Greenville.
Wickham wanted to bring the curriculum and concepts of the older program and apply them to the new program to benefit the Niles community, she said.
Through monthly home visits, parent education/support groups, free children's books and play groups for the children, the mentor program will provide parents with the necessary tools to raise their children properly. She also pointed out that early intervention will usually lead to children becoming more successful students.
Mentors will follow six program guidelines which spell the word mentor, Wickham said.
The mentors will model, encourage, nurture, teach, observe, and respond to the needs of their partner mothers.
Through the program, Wickham hopes to be able to catch any learning disabilities which may develop in children, preventing the need for special education later in life, and possibly reduce the chances of child abuse.
The program currently has five mentors who are each ready to be paired with a young mother.
The mentors are trained in the program curriculum, which includes training in child development, learning about early literacy programs, health and safety training, and working with families with special needs.
Mentors are specially trained in how to work with families with cultural differences, families living in poverty, and families with a special needs child.
Wickham said the program is intended to be a community based program, with all funding coming from donations and fund raisers, and all staffing coming from volunteers.
The program initially received two large donations from the Niles Service League and the Hunter Foundation, which were instrumental in getting the program started, Wickham said.
The Mentor-a-Mom Program has held several fund raisers including a walk-a-thon, a gift basket raffle, and a "Baby Bucks for Baby's Books" event.
Wickham and Emmons anticipate the program will grow quickly once it becomes more established.