When Bobbie Robson moved to Williams Lake from Quesnel two years ago she was pregnant with her second child.
She’d accessed a pregnancy outreach program in Quesnel so it felt natural to check out the one in Williams Lake.
“It’s been so nice because I came here not knowing anybody. At this program they also have the family outreach for after you’ve had your baby,” Robson says. Attending the program has meant guaranteed outings with her children and helped her meet new people.
Through the program she met a friend who was attending Thompson Rivers University in Williams Lake and began wondering if she should enroll in the Applied Business Technology program.
“I talked to Karen Irvine about it and she pushed me a little bit further and suggested Mayor Kerry Cook come to POP to talk to us about the programs at TRU. I talked to her and I signed up.”
Liberal Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett recently toured the Pregnancy Outreach program in Williams Lake, on the invitation of Cariboo Friendship Society executive director Rosanna McGregor.
When Interior Health announced its new toll-free prenatal registry confidential phone line last month for communities including Williams Lake, McGregor wanted to make sure Barnett was aware of the Pregnancy Outreach Program.
Co-ordinator Tracy Higgins says the program presently has 100 people accessing its services — 35 prenatal, 30 postnatal and 40 families.
They give vouchers for grocery stores and offer lactation and prenatal classes, often one-on-one.
Quite often their clients have a number of stresses, compared to the middle-class population.
They may be facing poverty, addiction, domestic violence or may be single parents.
“With a lot more on their plate, they need a different kind of prenatal class in a different setting. So we do our own classes here individually and if a woman is single, she may bring her mom, aunt or a friend to be with her at the classes,” Harris explains.
And when babies are born, one of the lactation facilitators will go out to homes to help with breast feeding.
“Not only because it’s better for mom and baby, but it’s a lot cheaper than formula and many of our moms are financially strapped. Lots of us have extra training with breast feeding to help moms adjust.”
McGregor says Pregnancy Outreach has a good relationship with the Ministry of Children and Family Development in the area of early infant development.
As the program’s aboriginal infant development worker, Janet Verbeck meets with prenatal moms to establish a relationship so when their babies are born they already feel comfortable meeting with her.
“Part of my role is to support families to help their kids develop to be the best they can be. We offer screens so families can see how their child is developing,” she says.
If a child is delayed in its development, Vebeck will do further screening and along with the parents will make a development plan and mark the progress made by the child.
“Some parents will come in and request an assessment so they can feel confident that they are doing the right things with their kids.”
Robson says she asked for some assessment for her son because he was starting kindergarten and she wasn’t quite sure about his abilities.
“Janet did an assessment and there were a couple of things that we had to work on and he’s great now.”
Barnett says when she was having babies there weren’t any programs and if you didn’t live around your parents, you went home from the hospital and did the best you could.
“These type of programs make healthier children and happier families.”
McGregor says it’s interesting over time how things change.
“Doing infant massage and understanding attachment these were not things we talked about when our children were little. I always enjoy watching the moms here.”
Harris says there’s a strong focus on early attachment with the moms because some of them have had children apprehended by the MCFD.
It’s all about prevention, she points out.
“They say prevention saves dollars. We had a speaker here once from the U.S. and she said every dollar spent on prevention saves eight down the line.”
Pregnancy Outreach is located at 202 Fourth Ave. North.