Community

Johnson County family support program receives state credential

Anne Plagge (far left), a State Home Visitation research coordinator with Iowa Department of Public Health, presents Family Support Program staff, Andrew Coghill-Behrends, Leni Hynes, Sarah Siddig, Edmond Bigaba, Hanadi Elshazali and Laura Martinez, with Iowa Family Support credential earlier this month. (Neighborhood Centers of Johnson County Family Support Program)
Anne Plagge (far left), a State Home Visitation research coordinator with Iowa Department of Public Health, presents Family Support Program staff, Andrew Coghill-Behrends, Leni Hynes, Sarah Siddig, Edmond Bigaba, Hanadi Elshazali and Laura Martinez, with Iowa Family Support credential earlier this month. (Neighborhood Centers of Johnson County Family Support Program)

IOWA CITY — The Neighborhood Centers of Johnson County received a state credential earlier this month for its Family Support Program, which provides parenting and other adult education classes to help families become self-sufficient.

The Iowa Family Support credential is awarded to programs that are validated through an evaluation in compliance with set standards, which provides an “external perspective” to ensure programs are delivering high-quality services to families and children in the state, Andrew Coghill, family support program director, said. This is the second time the program has received the credential, which is valid for five years.

Neighborhood Centers offer ongoing support and resources to parents and other adults through home visits, parenting classes and adult education, Coghill said. The family support program helps low-income families with children prenatal through prekindergarten who need help with child development issues, early childhood screenings, goal setting and activities to do with their children.

The five employees with the program are fluent in several languages to meet the needs of the diverse population in Johnson County, Coghill said.

The adult education program provides parents with a way to model continuing education and encourage family literacy, according to the neighborhood centers website. They also offer English Language Learners and GED and high school diploma classes.

Coghill said the staff provided nearly 2,500 home visits serving 130 families, and had about 100 families participating in group-based programs last year. There was some overlap in each, so the program served a total of 170 families.

This was the second time the program received the credential, Coghill pointed out. The first was in 2013 but it was only for the home-based programs. This time both home-based and group-based programs were included.

"Achieving the Iowa Family Support Credential is validation of the difficult work that our family support workers do on a daily basis,” Coghill said. “It offers public recognition of something that we already knew privately — that NCJC is providing the highest quality of services to some of Johnson County's most vulnerable children and families."

The Iowa Family Support Standards are based on the most up to date, evidence-based practice in the family support field, Coghill said.

The family support program “diligently worked toward meeting all of the 138 standards” over two years with the assistance of a program specialist, Coghill said. A peer review was conducted by trained peers from central Iowa to validate the program’s adherence to the standards.

This is a few of the comments the family panel provided anonymously for the peer review report: 

“I am glad to be here because I am a first time mom and I feel like this service is a light in my life and someone is pointing me in the right direction in a country that is not my country that is new to me.”

“I feel so important that the family support professionals come to my home to listen to me and help me find resources. I am here alone without family. They are here for our children but they listen to my problems and help solve my problems too.”

“This program teaches me that even though my mom and my aunts did things a certain way, the workers teach me the new research and makes me see that I don’t want to do things like my mom or aunt did because there are better ways to do it.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com