LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — Every new or expecting parent’s dream is to have an extra set of hands available for a baby’s arrival — especially when already overwhelmed and stressed by the holidays.
Luckily, London parents have that very thing available through the Laurel County Health Department’s support program Health Access Nurturing Development Services, or HANDS. Through HANDS, parents can get the answers to essential questions about childcare, such as what sort of physical changes are expected during pregnancy or how important a father’s role is during child development. Participants are also given community resources specifically tailored for new parents, such as referrals to basic utilities or other programs run by the Health Department. In all cases, HANDS will even extend their support to home visitation.
“We try to be as accommodating as we can,” said Beth Smith, HANDS coordinator at the Laurel County Health Department. “The program is completely voluntary. Under no circumstances do we tell parents what to do — we encourage them. We’re all about self-sufficiency and goal setting.”
Smith and two other employees at the Health Department serve approximately 50 families in Laurel County. With funding from Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home (MIECHV) grants and Federal Medicaid, the program extends throughout the state. Any recent or expectant parent is able to join HANDS free of charge. Participation can begin at any point of pregnancy or before a child is 3 months old.
Statewide, HANDS participants are given the option of taking part in the Growing Great Kids curriculum, a training course that offers modules specific to every possible home or financial situation. For example, if a single father on a low, fixed income needed assistance from HANDS, there’s a set of suggestions available just for him.
“A lot of our programs are very Dad oriented and Dad inclusive,” Smith said.