Safe and Sound: Raising Emotionally Healthy Children

KET Special Examines Raising Emotionally Healthy Children




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We all want our children to grow up to be happy, secure, healthy adults. But how much do we know about how that actually happens? Research on brain development shows that positive early experiences are critical for long term mental and physical health. When young children do not receive proper nurturing, or they experience trauma or constant stress, it can have serious repercussions for their development.

In this KET Special Report, we look at the impact of childhood adversity both for the individual and for society. And we learn how Kentucky communities and agencies are helping parents be the best they can be.

Experts featured:

  • Ruth Ann Shepherd. M.D., director of Maternal and Child Health for the Kentucky Department for Public Health
  • H. Otto Kaak, M.D., associate director for the Center on Trauma and Children at the University of Ky. -- Watch related video: Dr. Kaak was interviewed on One to One with Bill Goodman
  • Marta Miranda, LCSW, Director and CEO of Center for Women and Families in Louisville
  • Terry Brooks, Ph.D., Executive Director and CEO of Kentucky Youth Advocates

Safe and Sound presents several programs and strategies for supporting the emotional health of children across a continuum of needs, as we're shown real-life parenting challenges of Kentucky families with young children.

Promoting Attachment and Bonding: At the Center for Women and Infants at the University of Louisville, we meet Dr. Lawrence J. Wasser, who helps new parents understand the importance of attending to their baby’s needs right away in order to build trust. Dr. Wasser is a former student of famous pediatrician T. Berry Brazelton.

Home Visitation: HANDS, Health Access Nurturing Development Services, is a voluntary home visitation program for new parents offered by the public health department in all of Kentucky’s 120 counties. The program supports parents with research-based information about how to foster good social and emotional development in their children as the basis for all learning. “Safe and Sound” visits Clark County and meets several families who have benefited from HANDS.

Peer Support and Outreach: In the Louisville area, Metro United Way employs parent advocates to reach out to parents in neighborhoods where families face many income-related challenges and kindergarten readiness rates are low. The outreach efforts center around a new parent-friendly screening tool called Ages and Stages Questionnaires, which is a series of 21 age- specific questionnaires designed to help parents identify and address cognitive, motor and social delays before kindergarten.

Parent Child Interaction Therapy: When children exhibit extreme behavior or conduct problems, often parents and caregivers respond by increasing punishment or seeking medication. Parent Child Interaction Therapy focuses on strengthening the parent/child bond with dedicated play time coached by a professional in order to reduce problem behaviors. Viewers meet a child in the Lexington area who was on the verge of expulsion from preschool for biting others before the family began this therapy and resolved his behavior problems.

Parent Education and Classes: Without new information, parents tend to replicate how they were parented with their own children. At the Mason County Detention Center, male inmates participate in a Nurturing Fathers class provided by the local University of Kentucky County Extension program assistant that helps them to explore the roots of their fathering in order to make conscious decisions about what kind of parents they want to be.

Family Mentors in Child Protective Services: One of the most difficult challenges a family will ever face is the removal of a child from the home because of suspected abuse or neglect. A large percentage of neglect cases in Kentucky are related to substance abuse. In recent years, an innovative Child Protective Services program called START –- Sobriety Treatment and Recovery Teams -- is helping parents achieve sobriety and keep children safe while maintaining the parent/child bond. The program utilizes family mentors who have successfully been through the process, understand addiction and recovery and can support both the families and the treatment teams.

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Safe and Sound: Raising Emotionally Healthy Children is a KET production, and is funded, in part, by a grant from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky; Laura Kreuger, producer.