New program in Johnson County helping babies and toddlers succeed

JOHNSON COUNTY, Kan. --  As parents know, there isn't an instruction manual for how to raise children. But in Johnson County, some parents and caregivers are taking advantage of a new option to help babies and toddlers thrive.

It's called Attachment and Biobehavioral Catchup, or ABC,a Johnson County Mental Health run program. It's free for Johnson County residents with children ages 6 months to 2-years-old.

The program, still in it's pilot stage, targets children who faced challenges, and because of that, are at a greater risk for developing emotional and behavioral problems.

Things that might qualify families for the program are poverty, domestic violence, premature births with prolonged hospital stays and mothers with postpartum depression. An hour a week, for ten weeks, a clinician will go to a family's home. They'll sit with the parent while they play with their child.

"This is a really positive program so what we’re doing is talking to the parent about what they’re doing right," Janie Yannocito, a coach for the ABC program said. "As opposed to what a lot of programs do which is talk about what they’re not doing right."

Yannocito said the coaching focuses on four primary behaviors: nurturance;following the child’s lead; following the child’s lead with delight and delighting in the child. The goal is for the bond between the parent and child grow.

"That just kind of is one of the basic things, is that that child knows they can count on and trust that their caregiver will meet their needs," Yannocito said. "That is just huge because then they’re able to have a better sense of security. They will typically be able to have better emotional regulation and control their emotions. That helps them with school. It helps them to be prepared for school. Going through this program, kids develop better language skills just a whole host of thing that set up the child to be more resilient in the future. Even though they have had that adversity."

The ABC program was developed out of the University of Delaware. According to Yannocito, the program decreases stress hormone levels in children and makes them more resilient.

"One of the things we do is talk to parents about myths," Yannocity said. "One of the big ones is that if your child cries you shouldn’t always go over to pick them up because if you do they won’t develop independence. But actually that’s not true.

According to Yannocity, you provide that nurturance to your child when they need it, what that does ishelps them to develop more independence in the future because they are feeling secure in their world and that just opens up a whole lot of doors for them.

"Say a child falls down. A lot of time the instinct is to say oh you’re OK get up. Because we want the child to feel OK. In reality what that does is they kind of tell the child they’re not important. So what we’re trying to do is show parents even when your child doesn’t look like they need to be comforted or nurtured, they do. That again helps that child develop confidence, a sense of security and later years what’s been shown is that child will go to that parent when they need help," Yannocity said.

Jenn Reilly is part of the program. She just celebrated her daughter Attica's first birthday last week.

"As mothers we carry the world," Jenn Reilly said. "But we carry multiple worlds. It gets really hard."

Riley developed postpartum depression, and says the ABC program helped her and her baby.

"It can be very consuming and feel like you`re drowning so you feel like this is a breath of fresh air as far as getting help with the depression and forcing me to do the interaction that I was struggling to do," Reilly said. "For once you`re not being judged. You`re being enforced and praised and lifted up."

To sign up, call 913-826-1540 or 913-826-1522.

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