Family First with FOX43: Home visitors give new parents helping hand

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LOWER PAXTON TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- As a new parent, life comes at Teresa Miller fast.

Balancing work and home schedules is difficult for her and her husband, all while 2-year-old Addison is running around and constantly developing.

That is why twice a month, the Millers get a home visit from Veronica Kelly, a Family Educator with Harrisburg-based Tri County Community Action. Kelly uses its "Parents As Teachers" program to provide parental support while helping children with their developmental skills.

Veronica works with children from infant through six years old. On this day, Veronica is helping Addison carve a pumpkin for the first time.

"What I like to do with (Addison) is more sensory activities," she said.

Teresa knows the benefits of home visitation, not only because her family has used Veronica for the last six months, but as Pennsylvania's Secretary of Human Services, Teresa Miller's department makes home visitation possible.

"This is an amazing tool for parents," Teresa said. "My guess is most families don’t know this is an option."

Teresa admits she didn't know it was an option until working through the governor's budget last year. There are four models of home visitors in Pennsylvania (Early Head Start, Healthy Families America, Nurse-Family Partnership, and Parents As Teachers) and each is free, supplied by the state, to those who enroll. Currently, there are 15,000 families who use home visitation programs in Pennsylvania. The Governor's 2018-19 budget allocated nearly $52 million for home visiting, with $4 million recently announced focused towards areas of the commonwealth hardest hit by the opioid epidemic.

However, Miller admits there is a stigma around home visitors that they are only good for low-income or at-risk families. In reality, she said, any family can use them.

"Kids don’t come with an instruction manual and we don’t have all the answers," Miller said. "Home visiting is here to make sure you’re on track. I have no idea what I’m doing but at least I feel like I'm doing alright."

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