When you meet 11-month old Jason Pelkey, Jr., he has a twinkle in his eye. It is hard to believe that he was born with a cognitive disorder of the corpus callosum, limiting the connection between the left and right side of his brain. He curls up in his mom’s lap, points at the colorful images in a new children’s book and offers big smiles to the camera. Against the odds, he has overcome significant concerns of developmental delays and is somewhat of a “miracle baby.”
While Jason receives early intervention services to help develop his motor skills, speech, and sensory processing, his mom says that some of things that helped the most were in the early months of providing lots of skin to skin contact, talking and reading to him from birth. When asked about her hopes for Jason, Michelle responded, ”My hope is that whatever he wants to be, he can be, and I will support him every step of the way.”
Any parent would agree that raising a baby has its challenges, but the pandemic adds new layers of worry as Michelle lovingly protects Jason from irritants that exacerbate his disorder. She spends her days with him while her husband, Jason, works for a cleaning service.“I am his child care, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. He is my sanity,” she said with a mother’s pride and joy.
The Pelkey family receives support through Healthy Families in Clinton and Franklin counties, a home visiting program that helps them access community resources and services to help their baby get a healthy start in life. This program has been among our many Adirondack Birth to Three Alliance partners helping to distribute New Parent Kits. A tote bag of resources, the kits contain educational materials, children’s books, sign-up information for the Imagination Library (a program offering free books to children), and the ever useful book, “What to do When You Child Gets Sick,” by Gloria Mayer.
The information in the kit has shown me how to be a better parent,” said Jason. Michelle nods in agreement, recalling how the Mayer book helped her stay calm and navigate successfully through an emergency situation.
Healthy Families support specialist Edrie Archibald is grateful for the kits, too. They serve as a caring gift on her home visits, and even more so, “the materials inside empower parents, and allow me to provide new and different resources to support families.” Edrie acknowledges that parenting can be daunting at times and explains that the kits serve as a gateway for conversations, provide prompts for listening to parents’ concerns and questions, and help to build rapport and trust.
Our Birth to Three Alliance is working with other partners in the health and social service sector such as hospitals, county health departments, Catholic Charities, primary care providers, and pediatrician offices to distribute as many as 1,000 kits across five counties before the end of 2020. We even included them in Emergency Food Packages being delivered to families in need this spring.
This broad-reaching effort is made possible with thanks to funding from the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation, as well as ADK for Kids Fund, Stewart’s Foundation, the Charles R. Wood Foundation, and our BT3 Advocates.
Michelle and Jason, along with Edrie, agree that in addition to providing practical information, the kits send a message to parents that people believe in them. Through that twinkle in his eye, Jason, Jr., seems to concur.
The Adirondack Birth to Three Alliance, a program of Adirondack Foundation, was established with support from the Cloudsplitter Foundation, Chapel Hill Foundation, and other generous donors, to create a regional structure to design, promote, and amplify strategies that support a comprehensive and sustainable early childhood system.