Debbie Hill is a parent educator with the Early Head Start Program in West Columbia, West Virginia. Her primary outreach is to women inmates at Lakin Correctional Center for Women whose goal is to create a safe and secure correctional facility which will nurture women and prepare them to re-enter society effectively. Debbie shares with us how she uses HUG Your Baby to help connect these women to the mothers they can be now and in the future.
Last year I attended a two-day HUG Your Baby training and was amazed by how much babies could communicate! A few months later I was asked if I would be interested in becoming a Certified HUG Teacher, and I jumped at the chance.
The Early Head Start program I work for serves these women either by doing "home visits" with them or by staffing a center-based classroom for the women who have the opportunity to have their children with them until they are 18 months old. This was the location of my home visits and class.
My first home visit was with a mother who lives with her child. The baby was less than two weeks old and slept the whole time I visited. Mom has an older child too, and she talked about some of the things that the new baby was doing. I talked to her about ways to soothe the infant and about how to gently swaddle a baby. She said that her baby calmed down when she swaddled the baby and sang softly into her ear. We also discussed the various Zones a child could be in. She said she hadn't paid any attention to Janie's sleep patterns. We peeked in and noted that she was in a deep sleep.
Later in the day, I observed Mom using some of the techniques we had talked about such as putting Janie's hands across her chest and talking to her to calm the baby. It seemed to help.
The other home visit involved one of the women who is living in the home that houses the inmates with their children. This young woman was expecting again. Even though she had taken parenting classes with her first child she was very willing to watch the HUG video again. Throughout the viewing she commented on how she had used some of techniques with her first child. She talked, in particular, about techniques that had helped to soothe her first child. She said that she was glad for the session to refresh her memory. She has had her baby now, and when I recently saw her again, she described how she was using HUG techniques with her newborn.
The HUG class involves 10-12 women who either have young children (3 weeks to 3 years) at home with caregivers or are pregnant. A flip chart of the HUG slides works perfectly in this setting. The session can be very emotional for these women. Some of them had not seen their children for several weeks or even months. As I went through the session, I encouraged the women to talk about their experiences as new mothers. Some of the HUG blogs we discussed seemed to “speak” to these mothers. Several women were crying thinking about the children who were no longer in their care.
After the session was over, and before the women had to return to their cells, several mothers thanked me for the HUG presentation. This session proved to be a very touching and rewarding day both for the inmates and for me.