08/09/04 — Smart Start baby baskets are big help

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Smart Start baby baskets are big help

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on August 9, 2004 1:57 PM

Kristi Smith already had a toddler at home when Matthew was born in March.

She was nevertheless grateful when a nurse surprised her in the hospital with a basket of baby items courtesy of Wayne County Smart Start.

"I have used everything in it," she said. "A lot of things I had never used before with my other child."

The basket contains an assortment of items that prove useful for new parents: from nursing pads and outlet plugs to teething rings and a children's book.

A range of informational materials is also included. Among the topics covered are health insurance, breastfeeding and early dental health, as well as services and programs provided by the Wayne Partnership for Children, which oversees the local Smart Start, and other agencies.

Perhaps the most popular item is the book "Caring for Your Baby and Young Child." Priced at $20, the book has been endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics as a valuable resource for parents of children from birth to 5 years old.

"I didn't have that book, and I have referred to it 150,000 times in the last four months," said Mrs. Smith. "I think that's the most useful, valuable tool out of it."

Julie Odom, community services coordinator for Smart Start, said such a response has been typical since the baby baskets program was launched on Valentine's Day this year.

"It's definitely something that is getting attention and comments from parents," she said.

An estimated 1,700 babies are born at Wayne Memorial Hospital every year, she said, which makes the program fit nicely with Smart Start's mission of serving children from birth to age 5.

"Typically, the only way we can find those children is through child care," she said. "This is a way for us to identify families in the county and provide services for them."

It is especially helpful in cases where families do not rely on child care services.

Since February, Mrs. Odom estimated that about 550 baskets have been distributed. Nurses usually give them to the new mother on the day of discharge.

The baskets are also available to parents who adopt, she said, as well as those who live in Wayne County but may deliver the baby elsewhere.

"Any Wayne County parent who has a newborn is eligible," she said, and the baskets can be picked up at the Smart Start office on North William Street in Goldsboro.

A release form is given to those who get a basket, not only to keep track of who receives it but for future reference in providing services.

"It gives us a way to identify the parents and follow up on early childhood education," Mrs. Odom said.

Surveys are also being designed for recipients of the baskets. The hope is that parents will respond and indicate their interest in workshops.

"We would like to do a couple of trainings a month," she said. "We always offer infant and child CPR and have plans to do other topics."

The newsletter, "The Daily Parent," started last month and will be mailed to parents. The newsletter is produced nationally, but Smart Start includes an insert on local services and events for families.

The newsletter, like the baskets, is available in English and Spanish.

Mrs. Odom said the baby basket program's success has been enhanced by the enthusiastic support of volunteers.

"Volunteer response to the baskets has been huge," she said. "We have close to 40 volunteers that have helped assemble the baskets and deliver them."

The program has also been endorsed by Goldsboro Pediatrics and the pediatrics department at the hospital, Mrs. Odom said.

"The whole idea is to give children in Wayne County a 'smart start,'" she said.