When Jackie Schultz and Jared Brunner and their kids moved to the area several years ago, they had no connections. They lived in an isolated town, cut off from neighbors and other parents. The couple worked opposite job shifts to care for the children, including an infant. Then, last year, Covid-19 came home and both parents lost their jobs.
The family connected with CHP’s medical care, which led them to WIC, playgroups and support programs. But their most meaningful link has been CHP’s ParentChild+ program. Matched up with a parent mentor who visits twice weekly, Jackie and Jared have had a helping hand with parenting challenges. They first participated with daughter Rogue (now 6), and now with Lucas, 2. They are happy repeat customers.
ParentChild+ operates in seven countries, 15 states and 36 sites in Massachusetts. Program Director Cynthia Segui, LICSW, oversees four mentors working with 41 young families.
Jackie and Jared were first paired with mentor Amy Boardman from 2016-18. Lucas and his mom and dad now work with Olympia Casivant. During Covid-19, they’ve been meeting outdoors or in Zoom calls.
The program’s goal is “school readiness” for children up to age 4. But mentors bring much more to families in addition to their training in early childhood development.
“We had been so isolated, and so hustle-and-bustle,” says Jackie. “Our mentors helped us to slow down, get on the floor and play, read a book and engage more with our kids.” Their oldest son, Logan, is 9, and he’s included in family mentoring time, too. Olympia went above and beyond as a mentor, ensuring the family had help when both parents lost jobs last year. Now they are back to work: Jackie is a certified nursing assistant and Jared works in the grocery business.
Mentoring support brought the family together, says Jackie. She and Jared have learned to stop for a moment before reacting to typical conflicts with their children.
“We were so lucky to have made an early connection with CHP, to be able to talk with mentors about everyday issues,” said Jackie. “It’s brought to light the most important thing in my life, spending time with my children and helping them grow and learn.”
If you or someone you known could benefit from CHP services or the ParentChild+ Program, contact CHP Family Services 413-528-0457.