Health: HANDS program helping new parents

By Shannan Rome/Franklin Co. Health Department Published:

Having a new baby is an exciting time in a person’s life, but it can also be a little intimidating, especially for first time moms and dads. Fortunately, there is a program available in the community to help new parents give their baby the best possible start in life.

HANDS (Health Access Nurturing Development Services) is a home visitation program through the Franklin County Health Department that provides new parents with information about safety, child growth and development, parent-child interaction and bonding activities.

A trained Family Support Worker visits with new moms and dads throughout the prenatal period and after the child’s birth up to the second birthday. Families and their worker do fun activities which focus on the development of the baby utilizing a curriculum entitled Growing Great Kids™. Parents consistently express how grateful they are to have the support of an expert who can help with questions and concerns, right in their own homes.

Involvement with the HANDS program brings many benefits to families. Research shows that HANDS babies have low birth weight and very low birth weight less often, they have fewer premature births, lower rates of infant mortality and get more consistent prenatal care.

Parents who participate with HANDS appreciate learning more about child development and learn to recognize the stages that their babies should reach. If a baby does have a developmental delay, HANDS babies are more likely to get early detection, referrals and intervention. Since information about child safety is a part of the HANDS curriculum, babies in the program experience fewer visits to the emergency room and fewer cases of abuse and neglect.

Babies are not the only ones to benefit, however.

HANDS parents show that they have a better support network, use crisis services less often, and improve their employment and educational levels. All parents have worries, experience stress and have questions. Parents who receive HANDS services are given support in making decisions that are in the best interest of their families.

Parents want their children to be happy, smart and healthy. Studies prove that HANDS babies even do better in school and have fewer behavior problems, which is a good thing not only for the child and parents, but also for the community as a whole.

All 120 counties in Kentucky offer the HANDS program, through local health departments.

Although most referrals come from the health department, anyone can refer a parent to this free and voluntary program. Many times new moms and dads are referred by current and past participants, who see the tremendous value of having help and support during a time of change in their lives.

If you know of someone who is pregnant with their first child or has an infant less than three months old who might be interested in this program, call the Franklin County Health Department at 564-5559 or check online at

The family will even receive a $10 gift certificate to buy items for their new baby just for completing the first visit.

Shannan Rome holds a master’s degree in social work and is a Certified Social Worker.

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