By Steve Hansen
QCS Managing Editor
Quay County’s new home visitation program for expecting parents and caregivers of children up to age 3, which started operations in late July, is working with 13 families and has had 17 families referred in its first month of operation, Lola McVey, program director and parent educator, said.
Referrals have come through family service agencies, the Children, Youth and Families Dept., or self-referral.
The early response to this program has been excellent, according to local and state health officials who set the program into motion in Quay County as a response to statistics that showed Quay among the worst counties for child well-being in New Mexico.
Alida Brown, coordinator of the Quay County Health Council, said she is very much encouraged by the home visitation program’s early going. “It’s a great thing for families and parents,” she said.
Members of the health council, she said, responded very enthusiastically to the program’s first report.
Jesse Leinfelder, manager of federal home visiting programs for CYFD’s Office of Child Development, said the Quay County home visiting program is “doing a wonderful job” of recruiting and bringing in families who either have children up to five years old or are expecting a child.
Pat Garcia, who heads New Mexico’s programs for early childhood up to three years old for Presbyterian Medical Services, the host agency for Quay County’s home visitation program, said Quay’s program is moving forward.
“The families are finding out about the program and that’s great,” she said.
In the past two weeks, McVey has been joined by Shannon Arellano, the program’s other parent educator, who has just completed training.
The most common question that McVey and Arellano have heard among early clients in the first few weeks has been, “Is my child on track,” McVey said.
Many, McVey said, also seek validation for what they have already done as parents of babies and small children.
More married couples than single parents have contacted the program, she said, but at least one high school student who is expecting a child has called.
“We’re there as a guide,” she said, to help support parents in carrying out decisions the parents make, and provide information about services that may be available to assist parents.
The home visitation program is a first step in improving Quay County’s poor showing in child well-being measures, local and state sources said. It is designed to assist parents-to-be and parents of children up to age 3 who want help and advice to keep children healthy and safe and prepare them for success in school.
Among the Quay County statistics that led to the county’s listing as one of four areas in the state that required priority treatment in a CYFD initiative that began last year were the following:
• 31 percent of Quay County children under age 18, nearly one in three, live in poverty
• 49 percent, almost one of every two, of Quay County’s children under age 5, live in poverty (compared with 33 percent in New Mexico and 26 percent in the U.S.).
• 11.4 percent of births are low birth weight (years 2008-2010).
• Teen births to girls age 15-17: 58 per 1,000 (2008-2010, an average of 10 births annually), compared with 33 per 1,000 in New Mexico and 20 per 1,000 in the U.S.
• Little or no pre-natal care: Average 46.7 percent (2005-2011), compared with 36.5 percent in New Mexico.
Quay County’s home visitation program is housed in the Quay County Family Health Center, 1302 E. Main St. Tucumcari. The program may be reached by calling (575) 461-7964.