Updated: Aug 26
Jessica began participating in Carteret Smart Start’s Baby Steps program in March of 2018 through a referral from the Carteret County Health Department. Baby Steps is a community, in-home family support program which utilizes a strength-based approach while providing parents with education, support, and resource information. Her son, KJ was 6 months old.
At the time, Jessica was overwhelmed with juggling the responsibilities of being a new mom and needed extra support and encouragement. Over the last 2 years, Jessica and her family have had monthly in-home visits with Tara, her Family Support Specialist. During that time, Jessica has learned not only how to provide for KJ’s basic care, but more importantly, she has developed a loving, responsive, and strong nurturing connection with her son.
Through help from the Baby Steps program, Jessica has learned about age-appropriate expectations, the use of appropriate toys/books, and the importance of play in KJ’s development. Jessica has grown more confident in her role as a mother. This growth was evident when baby Makenli came along in June of 2019.
KJ is a thriving 2-year-old who never sits still and who is learning how to count to ten and the colors of the rainbow. Makenli is a curious, joyful little girl who loves to play peek-a-boo. Jessica uses the activity ideas provided at home-visits to help KJ and Makenli achieve their developmental milestones. Working together, Tara has coached Jessica on child-proofing the home, encouraging daily routines, establishing logical consequences, and understanding that building strong social, emotional wellbeing in her children will lead to their future success. “I love the home visits with Tara and all the information and resources she provides.” Jessica reflected. “The support she has provided makes my job as a mom just a little bit easier. She loves my kids, and we all look forward when she comes over. “
Additionally, Tara helped Jessica sign KJ and Makenli up for the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program. The Dolly Parton Imagination Library program gifts a book each month in the mail until the child turns 5 years old. “We are so excited when a new book comes in the mail," says Jessica. "KJ will run over to our library shelf and bring me a book to read. It’s been a great way to transition from one activity to another or just have some snuggle time together. We also love the books we get from their pediatrician’s office at each of their well-child checkups.”
Jessica is referring to Carteret Smart Start’s Reach Out and Read program. Reach Out and Read partners with local pediatric doctors as they “prescribe” reading at each well-child visit. Starting at 6 months through 5 years, children receive a new, age-appropriate book, and parents are given information on enhancing early literacy skills by a trusted medical professional. Currently, Kids Rule Pediatrics, Oceanside Pediatrics, Carteret Clinic, and the Carteret County Health Department participate in the Reach Out and Read program.
In addition to Baby Steps, Jessica and KJ attended Carteret Smart Start’s Story Explorers program for a short time. Story Explorers is a literacy-based, parent/child part-day preschool for children ages 0-3 years old. The preschool experience provides hands-on learning opportunities for both children and parents. It is a time when parents learn the importance of play in a young child’s development. Parents also network and form support groups with other parents in similar situations.
Jessica has worked as a Medical Assistant at BeachCare since 2009. When she started the Baby Steps program, she was working full-time and relied on family and friends to help with childcare. Although she has a strong family support system, this arrangement often led to inconsistencies with the children’s daily routine and there were times when she did not have childcare available. Fortunately, Jessica was finally able to enroll both KJ and Makenli in quality childcare programs, where they are thriving. This new arrangement gives Jessica peace of mind and allows her to concentrate on her career and the family’s financial goals.
Attending a quality childcare program, allows KJ and Makenli to socialize with other children and experience a more structured early education experience.
By seeking outside resources and social interaction, Jessica is providing her children with opportunities to expand their social and cognitive experiences. Carteret Smart Start’s Child Care Resource and Referral program works to ensure quality early childhood environments by providing training and technical assistance to Carteret County’s childcare community.
Looking to the future, Jessica and her family would like to move into a larger home. As the kids get bigger, they are quickly outgrowing their duplex. Working together with KJ and Makenli’s dad, Kenneth, she continues to use the knowledge and resources she receives from being a part of Carteret Smart Start to ensure that her children are surrounded by love, positive role models, respect and a safe and nurturing home environment. Jessica explained, "My kids mean the world to me. I struggled to be able to have them and I wouldn't trade them for anything in this world."
Carteret Smart Start has been serving the needs of families and young children for over twenty years to provide quality programs that directly impact local families so that all children grow-up with the skills and resources needed to reach their full potential.
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