By Courtney Orange
As the wind swiftly blows the dandelion seeds across a vast field, so quickly do babies grow into children, then adolescents, and finally adults. Children are only children for a short while, which is why it is imperative to ensure that each child is properly cared for during those crucial development years. Children’s Council of Watauga County is focused on just that—ensuring that children and their parents have the resources and guidelines to grow in a positive and healthy environment. Children’s Council served over 4,000 children and their families in 2019. Director Elisha Childers has been serving at Children’s Council of Watauga since June 2019 along with its 25 other full and part time employees. Each member of the Children’s Council team is dedicated to serving the families of Watauga county.
Children’s Council focuses on helping children from birth to 12-years-old. They have programs for infants to five years of age and some programs continuing until 12. One of their most notable programs is D.U.A.L. School (Diverse Unified Appropriate Learning), a community-sponsored, bilingual preschool for English-speaking and Spanish-speaking children. This program consists of children between the ages of three and four participating in integration to become fluent and comprehensive in either Spanish or English.
During an interview with Ms Childers, she said, when “serving children who are zero to age five, you really have to serve their caregivers as well, so part of our programs are very focused on the total family.”
Children’s Council offers a number of programs for the families of children who may need an extra hand, whether its financial or developmental. As a family support, they provide a Family Literacy Program where parents can attend Caldwell Community College through a partnership to earn their GED or ESL. Free childcare and transportation are provided for enrolled parents. Another great service Children’s Council offers is Triple P—Positive Parenting Program; this program is for parents seeking help with how to handle typical childhood behaviors. Along these same lines is a program called Incredible Years. This program is a class for parents that focuses on behaviors, ideal for parents with children who are pre-k and six to twelve years. This class is offered with a family meal and free children’s program while parents are in class. There is also the family resource library where parents can check out books, learning kits, toys, and other activities for children. This service is not completely free; there is a small fee to the membership.
Community outreach is important to those at Children’s Council and that is why they provide services such as a diaper bank. Last year they gave more than 64,000 diapers away to families in need. This is a huge deal when one considers the average price of a box of diapers. Another way Children’s Council is reaching out to the families of Watauga is through a fairly new program: Nurtured Beginnings. They are offering home visitation for new families for the first 12 weeks. During this time, someone from their team goes out to the home to check on Mom and baby and makes sure everything is going smoothly. Having a new baby often brings welcome, but unexpected changes within the family dynamic, which is where Children’s Council steps in to assist with those adjustments upon the family’s request. Children’s Council has partnered with Watauga Medical Center and doctors’ offices to connect with these families seeking support.
There is individual support for mothers through Children’s Council called MOMS for MOMS. This program is a postpartum distress support group that provides a nonjudgmental atmosphere where mothers can come and express their struggles among their peers, all in an effort to improve maternal mental health. This program is another way Children’s Council involves itself with the community. They also offer the Adolescent Parenting Program (APP) which serves pregnant and parenting teens between the ages of 13 and 19. They also provide in-home visits and groups meetings as a form of outreach. According to Children’s Council’s annual report for 2019, they served 240 households through the Nurturing Beginnings and the APP programs.
Overall, Children’s Council is a wonderful resource for Watauga families. Available for all families, no matter one’s background or status, their programs have and continue to reach those in need of assistance. The Children’s Council’s main goal is to strengthen the family unit through community support. Children’s Council focuses on the family—however that may look—because they are a family. Each team member is dedicated to the future and wellbeing of the current and rising generations because, without the next generation, there is no future.