The Baby Academy

                 continued . . . .
 


Our first series of classes started with 13 expectant parents in the fall of 2005 (12 graduated).  Since that time 151 families (including two dozen fathers) have graduated from the Baby Academy.  All classes and services are provided to parents and children at no cost to the family.  Fewer than 10% of expectant mothers are married, and only about 15% have a male significantly involved with the family.

Baby Academy classes are two hours long and run for 10 weeks on Saturdays.  Classes are held at Asylum Hill Congregational Church in an addition with wonderful space for cooking meals, rooms for childcare, and state-of-the-art classrooms.  Sessions start at 9 AM with a hot breakfast, classes begin at 10 AM, and lunch starts at noon when classes end.  The Zone provides additional incentives for parents to attend such as drawings for baby items and gift cards, and a special drawing on the last Saturday for those participants with perfect attendance.  Childcare is provided. 

Participating parents also have weekly home visits from an Outreach Worker.  These visits are very important to address specific issues each parent is having – and every one has issues, especially dealing with basic needs.  All parents need some counseling from an Outreach Worker, and benefit from a wide variety of referrals to other agencies for services. 

Many graduates continue to receive services from an Outreach Worker.  Ongoing basic needs require much attention, and help with these issues makes it possible for the family to look forward to longer-term solutions, such as focusing more time on their children’s learning, their own career and additional education.  Half of Baby Academy attendees have not completed high school nor received a GED.  We are proud of the fact that some 42% of graduates are now employed, either full or part time.  Another 25% (some overlapping) are continuing their education in some form.

One of the most valuable outcomes of the Baby Academy is a sense of accomplishment.  Many of these parents have never graduated from anything, and the feeling of accomplishment that comes with graduating is significant.  Many of the women say they have few friends; the Baby Academy class provides friendships while also allowing valuable information about their children to be shared.  sleeping
We have learned that parents (usually single mothers) need additional assistance in a variety of “life skills” such as budgeting, setting goals, skills for obtaining and keeping a job, and the motivation to continue their education.  Course length was increased so that additional training in these skills may be included. 
An Outreach Worker works with most families after graduation to provide encouragement and direct assistance to continue with education, obtain employment, and think about a career.  We recognize this type of assistance is a very long-term proposition – five to 10 years or more.  It is gratifying to see some success, with mothers who initially did not want to work finding fulfillment in a job, and others who initially had no interest pursuing additional education now doing so.
 

 
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