PANAMA CITY- Bringing a new baby home can be overwhelming for any new parent, but financial instability or a past history of abuse can put the families at risk. That is why the Healthy Families program at the Life Management Center exists. It provides in-home education and support for high risk families, teaching positive parenting techniques to avoid abuse and neglect.
Little Kennedy's smiles and giggles are the sights and sounds of a success story. Her family has come a long way. Her mom Emily was a tenth grader at Mosley High School when she got pregnant with 3-year-old Kennedy. When her brother Noah arrived prematurely at 32 weeks, Emily was overwhelmed. "I didn't know what to do. If it wasn't for the NICU and then me going home and having her I would be lost," said Emily Hawkins. She's talking about Victoria Everett, her "Healthy Families" case worker. "She needed some motivation so I would visit her, encourage her, I was kind of like a life support for her," said Victoria. "She is like another mom to me," said Emily.
Victoria helped Emily set goals and achieve them, including getting her GED, finding a job, a place to live, and marrying the father of her children. "She pretty much helped me achieve goals that I didn't think would happen without this program," said Emily.
The Healthy Families program is currently helping 65 at-risk families find stability by reaching one milestone at a time. "They are evaluated base on different life circumstances. It could be that it is a single parent home, could be low income, maybe someone has just lost their job different, stressors that are in their life that can make things even harder on someone who has just had a child," said Tricia Pearce, Community Relations Specialist with the Family Life Center in Panama City.
The program will soon be doubled, allowing 115 at-risk families get healthier with each goal they meet. "If it wasn't for them I wouldn't have accomplished anything," said Emily.
Funding for the Healthy Families program comes from the Federal Ounce of Prevention fund, but also requires locally raised funds to show the community's commitment to the program. That is why they are hosting a Girls Night Out and BUNCO tournament Friday, July 26th, at 5:30 at FSU-PC, cost is $25 if you register by the 19th. Click on the link provided for more information.