For the first time in its 15-year history, Contra Costa’s popular Welcome Home Baby program is offering home visiting services to new fathers. Matched with a male home visitor, the program helps fathers to become more involved in their baby’s life, which research shows produces better health and educational outcomes for children.
“Children with involved, stable fathers have fewer behavioral problems, higher educational attainment, and lower levels of emotional stress,” said Odessa Caton, program director at AspiraNet, the nonprofit that runs Welcome Home Baby. “Home visiting is an effective way to reach new parents, reduce child abuse, and improve child health and development, but most programs are only for mothers. We’re out to change that.”
Fathers or other male caregivers are eligible for this voluntary service regardless of child custody status and receive assistance with parenting, employment resources, community services, and information about infant development. To reach dads, the program hired its first male home visitor, Cesar Paredes, and offers services at times to accommodate fathers’ work schedules.
“Fathers have a much bigger role in how children develop beyond providing financial support,” said Cesar Paredes. “A child’s first three years, the most rapid period of brain growth, are shaped by early experiences and stable relationships. Responding to cries or talking silly to babies promotes brain growth. For some fathers, this is new information and changing how they parent.”
For Jeff, father of three-month-old JB, the program has been a lifeline, especially since his extended family lives out of state. Before JB was born, Jeff had no experience caring for babies so Cesar brought over a fake baby for Jeff to practice holding and swaddling. At the hospital, Jeff, a 23-year-old window installer, proved to be a master swaddler and was already well-versed on the “5 S’s”, Dr. Harvey Karp’s method for calming crying newborns.
“Cesar helps me with anything. He gives me information and knowledge about being a better parent and partner. Talking to him helps get things off my chest and feel less stressed,” Jeff said. “I was really scared about becoming a dad, but I’ve come a long way. I have such a strong connection with JB. Nothing is better than those moments when he realizes I’m his father or when I hold him and he stops crying.”
The program is part of First 5 Contra Costa’s $3.6 million home visiting initiative, which provides services in Antioch, Bay Point, Concord, Martinez, Oakley, Pittsburg, Richmond, and San Pablo. Hello Baby, the home visiting program we fund in West County, recently hired a male home visitor who will soon start serving dads in Richmond and San Pablo.
Engaging fathers can be challenging, but according to Paredes, “Talking sports is usually a good place to start with the fathers. Then I might ask, ‘So where was the baby during the game?’”
To sign up for the program, contact:
- Welcome Home Baby (Antioch, Bay Point, Concord, Martinez, Oakley and Pittsburg): 925-753-2156
- Hello Baby (Richmond and San Pablo): 510-236-6990