The goal of “Connecting and Caring, A Program for New Mothers” is to provide services and create a supportive environment based on the Strengthening Families Initiative (SFI) Protective Factors from the Center for the Study of Social Policy. The five Protective Factors are parental resilience, social connections, knowledge of parenting and child development, concrete support systems in times of need and support for children’s social and emotional development.

“These factors are shown to provide parents with tools to effectively parent even during times of stress,” said Saratha Sivasithamparam, director of the North Suburban (WIC) program. “In speaking with local community partners and reflecting on our own experience at WIC, this parenting education and support program is a service needed in this area as most of the existing programs are for teen parents or for parents of toddler and school-aged children.”

Beginning in October, “Connecting and Caring, A Program for New Mothers” will be offered in two eight-week series of free, weekly two-hour sessions facilitated by an experienced program coordinator. The goal of the program is to reduce parental stress by facilitating friendships and creating support networks, offering simple interventions and education to strengthen parenting skills, and providing opportunities for enhancing self-esteem for first-time mothers with babies under the age of 1.

“The model for this program is derived from our previous experience that providing peer support and professional guidance for new mothers can prevent potential problems,” added Sivasithamparam.

Though managing a similar program over the past four years in the Malden area, North Suburban (WIC) families have also been linked to many other valuable community services such as Early Intervention and the Coordinated Family and Community Engagement Grants (formerly Family Network and Community Partnership programs) to facilitate the children’s social and emotional development – skills that are critical factors in creating a lifetime of good health.

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Hallmark Health System is the premier, charitable provider of vital health services to Boston's northern communities. The system includes Lawrence Memorial Hospital of Medford; Melrose Wakefield Hospital, Melrose; Hallmark Health Cancer Center, Stoneham; The CHEM Center for MRI, Stoneham; Hallmark Health Medical Center, Reading; Hallmark Health VNA and Hospice, Malden; Lawrence Memorial/Regis College Nursing and Radiography Programs, Medford and Hallmark Health Medical Associates, Inc. Hallmark Health is affiliated with Massachusetts General Hospital for cardiology and Tufts Medical Center for neonatology.

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