Healthy Families: a graduation for life

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 20, 2005

Standing at the front of the East Suffolk Community Center auditorium Wednesday, Beth Garbus remembered.

She remembered how the local Healthy Families program had helped her daughter Amber Bishop learn to read a children’s Bible. She thought about how they’d helped monitor Amber’s growth, making sure the little girl didn’t have any learning or physical disabilities. She recalled how they’d driven her to the doctor when she didn’t have a car.

&uot;It didn’t feel like they were doing a job,&uot; said Garbus, who along with Amber was one of seven parent-child teams to graduate from the program, making 25 who have completed it since Healthy Families opened. &uot;The love was there, and that’s important.&uot;

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In collaboration with Obici Hospital, the program helps out first-time parents, said team supervisor Beverly McQuarry.

&uot;We bring in a parenting curriculum,&uot; she said. &uot;We help them learn about feeding, sleeping, discipline, learning, and anything else that goes into raising a baby. We check at specific levels to make sure the baby is developing properly.

&uot;We look for developmental delays, such as speaking, and we look for gross motor skills, like walking and jumping, and fine motor skills, like writing and picking up things. If we see something wrong, we refer them to the Early Intervention program.&uot;

For the first six months of a child’s life, representatives make weekly visits to the child’s home. The visits eventually become biweekly, then monthly, then quarterly.

On disability after a bullet wound to the head took away her senses of smell and taste and damaged her short-term memory, Garbus lives with her daughter in Windsor, to which visits from family support worker Lisa Goodwin were a welcome occurrence.

&uot;We always looked forward to seeing her coming,&uot; Garbus said. &uot;She really turned Amber into a reader. She helped me with parent-child interaction, like discipline and teaching responsibility.&uot;

&uot;Amber is a real bright little girl,&uot; Goodwin said. &uot;We never saw any delay in her. She’s so open that it’s easy to work with her.&uot;

A year ago, the program helped Garbus enroll her daughter in the Southampton Center’s Head Start pre-school program.

&uot;I like how (Goodwin) helped me,&uot; said Amber, who received a trophy and certificate as part of her graduation. &uot;I hope I can still see her, because she’s my friend.&uot;