Being a new parent can be challenging. No matter how much research you do before your little one joins your family, it’s still common to feel isolated, ill-equipped, or unsupported once they arrive. The Program for Early Parent Support (fondly known as PEPS) and Valley’s Children’s Therapy team have partnered to ease some of the worry for new parents in South King County. Their collaborative pilot program combines PEPS’ strong legacy of building community through parent peer-support groups and Valley’s expertise in child development.
“PEPs believes that all new families should have access to a healthy, supported start in life,” says PEPS Executive Director Jessica Lawmaster. “We are committed to working with families, partner organizations, and communities to identify barriers to parent support and wellness, interrupt their negative impact, and eliminate the persistent disparities in child outcomes.”
Typically, PEPS families meet in each other’s homes with a PEPS Group Leader. For the Valley/PEPS pilot, four families gathered weekly at Valley’s Children’s Therapy clinic with both a PEPS leader and subject matter specialists from Valley.
“It’s been nice for families to meet speakers who are experts in growth and development to PEPS’ personal and engaging approach to becoming parents,” said Valley Lactation Consultant, Annie Kunkel, who is one of Valley’s participating experts. “The group has the same parents and leader each week, which helps others relax and feel more like they are getting to know each other as friends, building trust which can lead to more open communication.”
Program Director Kintea Bryant, says “PEPS is really excited to partner with Valley Medical Center. The expertise of Valley’s staff gives participating parents a unique experience in their PEPS groups and provides more resources that support them in their parenting journey.”
The parents, PEPS Group Leader, and Valley experts met for 12 weeks. Goals for participating parents included:
- Increasing their confidence in parenting
- Learning about developmental milestones, plus activities and strategies to support them
- Educating themselves through PEPS leader and expert-led discussion topics
- Meeting other new parents to learn, share and connect in a small group
Another Valley expert, Speech-Language Pathologist, Amy Westendorf said, “I’m looking forward to continuing these groups and hope to get more and more families involved. Having experts involved helps answer questions families often don’t know who or how to ask, provides strategies to prevent potential development delays, and offers support to identify the possible need for further expert involvement.”
Lawmaster adds, “Good support strengthens resilience for the next milestone, challenge or change, creates bond between parents and babies, and shapes a baby’s healthy development. Through these facilitated support groups, we are providing new parents the connections and resources they need on their journey to parenthood.”
To register for an upcoming PEPS group at Valley’s Children’s Therapy, visit valleymed.org.
Valley Medical Center’s Children’s Therapy provides inpatient and outpatient treatment in occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech and language therapy, social and nutritional services, and family resource coordination.
PEPS is a nonprofit organization that has been helping new parents connect and learn for more than 35 years. In 2018, PEPS helped 3,772 parents and hosted 323 parent support groups to educate, inform, and build community.