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Cumberland County Program Goes Home to Build Healthy Families

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FAYETTEVILLE — How can Cumberland County cut down on the high rates of infant mortality and child abuse? The answer may lay in a new program that brings parenting tips into the homes of young moms and dads.

Every week, registered nurse Consuela Blaizes visits 19-year-old Amber Uppinghouse and her son, Austin. Blaizes teaches Uppinghouse how to be a better parent, offering tips on everything from how Austin can play without buying expensive toys to keeping him safe around electrical outlets.

Uppinghouse and her son participate in Healthy Families, an intensive home-visitation program designed to improve the quality of Cumberland County children's lives.

"I think I would have been an OK parent, but I wouldn't have been as patient," Uppinghouse said. "I wouldn't have had the information and wouldn't know what to do in situations -- now I do."

Modeled after a national program, Healthy Families is showing signs of progress. A recent survey found a decrease in parents' stress levels and repeat pregnancies. The survey also showed improvements in parental knowledge and other topics, such as financial issues.

As a support system, child advocates say the program will help in the fight against child abuse.

"The research [indicates that] families who feel disconnected with the community -- that don't have the support -- are more likely to abuse [children]. By connecting them, they are less likely, so it's very much preventative," said Eva Hansen with the Cumberland County Partnership for Children.

Like Austin's father, other teenage dads can participate in the Healthy Families program.


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