As her four-month old daughter Amiyah Williams coos and smiles, Adora Butcher radiates joyful confidence. Yet as a first-time parent with a four-month old baby, the 19-year old doesn't always feel that way.
"I was new to this whole thing," she told The Skanner. "I looked after my little cousins but it's different when it's your baby. Sometimes you have questions."
When help was offered, Butcher jumped at the chance and enrolled in the Early Head Start's Home Base program. The program sends a specially trained and certified parent teacher to her home once a week for 90 minutes to answer any questions she has, offer information and resources and help her solve problems.
"She's basically a mother-type person who talks to me about nutrition and about babies — what to expect," Butcher said. "We talk a lot and she helps me. We play and read stories, and if I need a break she will help me out. I found out Amiyah is doing very well for her age. When I am talking and speaking to Amiyah I know I am helping her to learn."
Better known for the head start program that works with 3 to 5 year olds helping them get ready for school, Albina Head Start began working with even younger children. Through its regular Early Head Start program, the parent-led, early childhood nonprofit offers high quality childcare to low-income families.
Albina Early Head Start serves 120 children in its center, five days a week from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Each classroom has three staff for eight children.
"There is a tremendous need for zero-three care," said Elaine Harrison, who runs the early head start program from its offices on North Skidmore. "Parents are working and they need that care. Here, they know their children are safe. If I am a low-income parent I want to know my child is well cared for and that they are learning too."
In the Home base program parent teachers take the program to the family, helping new parents learn how to turn their love and care into expert parenting. Parents meet up at the center twice a month to socialize with one another, solve problems together and observe how their babies socialize.
"The research shows that the earlier you start the better," said Harrison. "Parent involvement is tremendously increased if you reach them at the earliest point, and that has a positive impact on children's cognitive development."
The nonprofit also works with teen moms, not to encourage teens to have babies but to make sure that when they do, the babies get the best start in life possible.
After its recent expansion the number of children the Home Base program can serve jumped from 21 to 179, Harrison said, soopenings are available for low-income parents who would appreciate support from an experienced person.
Of the 18 staff in the program 14 have degrees in early childhood education and all are experienced and certified to teach parents to become expert in caring for their children. They all know that caring for young children can be stressful
Butcher says she is lucky. Amiyah has never cried a lot. "From since she was born, she has only cried when she was wet," she says. "She's a happy baby. She laughs, she talks and she smiles, She doesn't really cry."
But experts say some sensitive babies cry a lot, adding to the stress on young mothers, who may feel they are doing something wrong. In fact, according to the Mayo clinic, most newborns cry for more than two hours a day, and for reasons that nobody yet understands some cry a lot more than that. Worse, babies can't tell you what is wrong.
That's just one reason why many parents need to talk to an experienced person, who knows how babies develop and change, and can offer suggestions on how to tackle the problems that arise with crying or nursing, feeding or sleeping.
"I have recommended the program to a friend of mine," said Butcher. "It's a good program: they're meeting with you one-on-one once a week and teaching you how to take care of the baby and what to expect – especially for a first-time parent."
For information on how to enroll in the Home Base program call 503-236-9389 or visit 911 N. Skidmore to pick up an application.