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Jan 29, 2010
By Ashley Bateman (USAG Bamberg)

BAMBERG, Germany - A 'social club' for new and soon-to-be parent at U.S. Army Garrison Bamberg offers valuable information for raising children.

The New Parent Support Program aims to encourage socialization and education of new and expecting parents, while providing them an open forum for questions and discussion.

"I am quite proud of the New Parent Support Program," said Mark Bradley, Army Community Services Family Advocacy Program manager. "I think that it is a great program that provides an invaluable service to Families with new children. You know, kids aren't born with an instruction manual for their care and feeding and to have a service that really individually addresses these issues available in the community is a tremendous asset."

Bamberg's FAP created the program at Warner Barracks in April 2001. The New Parent Support Program replaced a similar program in place at the time, called Footsteps.

Glenda Byrd, FAP home visitor and registered nurse in charge of the program in Bamberg, said it fulfills multiple goals for community support of expecting parents and those with young children. The program is a source of education, socialization and provides a support network for those nervous about giving birth in a foreign country.

"The New Parent Support Program offers reassurance that their needs will be met before and after the baby comes home," she said.

The social aspect of the forum is important as well, she said.

"The target is to help the moms so they have an outlet to develop their socialization and meet their needs as well," Byrd said. "It's also a way for new mothers to connect. It provides a good means of community resources for them."

Not only are the programs' classes meant to be preventative and educational, FAP employees are actively involved in assisting parents after the birth. A set of voluntary and free of charge home visits can be requested after a mother returns from the hospital with her child. Byrd said an FAP employee screens a family to determine how many home visits the family should receive in the month after an infant enters the home.

The program's two weekly groups, Newborn Network and Play Mornings, aim to educate and assist new or expecting parents. Tuesday's Newborn Network centers around infants aged 0-12 months, while children aged 0-3 years are the focal point of Friday's Play Mornings group.

The Newborn Network class incorporates group discussion, question and answer and informative speakers from post programs and services like Women Infants and Children, Child Development Center and ACS. Topics range from infant nutritional health to financial readiness. Byrd said that the program also draws on the health clinic and social work services as resources.

Since the children brought by their parents to the Play Mornings group are older, they are further incorporated into the class than the infants brought to the Newborn Network class. In addition to informing and educating parents, the Tuesday group's agenda includes a learning skills lesson for the children.

"We try to do fine arts and motor skills development for the children during this time," Byrd said. "We try to encourage socialization and play."

Although classes and home visits are the primary responsibilities of the New Parent Support program, special services like infant massage and casting newborn footprints are also offered on an individual basis.

"It's different than other programs because it's a service that we provide for pregnant moms and it is consistent," Byrd said of the program. "We meet their needs. We are caregivers and care providers."

Bradley agrees that the individual attention the program offers has been very successful on Warner Barracks.

"Ms. Byrd's professional and compassionate approach to providing these services to Families really makes the Bamberg New Parent Support Program one of the premiere programs of its type in Europe," Bradley said. "This is evidenced by the fact that participation in the program has more than tripled during the time that she has been facilitating the program."

FAP Specialist and Victim Advocate Jennifer Berbach saw the program change from Footsteps in 2001.

"Back when the transition took place, it was mainly a change of name but, since then, it has changed drastically," Berbach said. "Now it is more focused on health care issues. The program has changed in a way that it is more stringent about education, licensing, and having skilled staff."