INDIANAPOLIS — A local program is targeting "at risk" families in the hopes of preventing child abuse and helping adults learn essential parenting skills they may not have been taught growing up.
A new report from the US Department of Health and Human Services says that in 2017 there were almost 30,000 victims of child abuse in Indiana - that's nearly double the national average.
"Healthy Families" targets parents who are at or below the poverty level and considered at risk. They focus on child development education, bonding with parent and child and goal setting. They start with long-term goals, and break them down into smaller achievable steps.
Tyrea Booker gave birth to her daughter, Amiyah, while she was in prison. While incarcerated, Tyrea did the "Wee One's" education program and once released, she was able to continue with the Healthy Families program where she's now learning and building connections with the staff.
A year later, Booker said she's thankful for the opportunity.
"When I look at Amiyah, I know I birthed her, I take care of her no matter how hard it gets," Booker said. "I know I have someone behind me besides family, there every step of the way."
Parents can stay in the program until their child is three years old. Program leaders hope they'll have enough funding in the future to expand the program for families with children up to five years old.
Staff members say new parents should have realistic expectations of their child in the early development stages and make sure they take time to let them know they are loved. That could be something as simple as talking to them, singing or even just reading a book.
If you or someone you know is planning to have a child and needs extra help you can find more information about the Healthy Families program at the Village Kids website.