Starting this month, we would like to share our success from Pernet’s Early Intervention Program on an on-going basis. Children qualify for early intervention for a variety of reasons. These reasons can be due to scores on our assessment tool (the Battelle), risk factors for the family or medical diagnoses. The role of service coordinator is not only to support the child but to support the family as a whole. This may look like bringing the family food, clothes and diapers, attending DCF meetings and doctor’s appointments, setting up services with other specialists and at times just being a listening ear. This approach provides the family and child the support they need in order to achieve, thrive, and develop to their greatest potential.
Our first story is of how a Service Coordinator helped a family navigate the medical system. Upon meeting a new client, the coordinator realized that the child needed to meet with a geneticist. Mom shared with the coordinator her struggle with her child’s pediatrician and the way the doctor would brush off her concerns. The coordinator connected the family with a geneticist, in addition to, physical and occupational therapy, and a vision consultation. “My client has developed amazingly in the last couple months,” shares the coordinator, “and I know that her progress is due to the therapies and medical teams that I helped put in place.”
Our next success story comes from a Service Coordinator who tells us about a little girl who has been in the program for about a year, “Up until her first birthday she was developing like a typical child, hitting all her milestones: crawling, saying Mama…” Not too long after, the child lost all her mobility, vision, and speech due to an abnormality of the brain, which left her like a newborn. The Coordinator started seeing the child at 14 months old. She immediately referred her to Physical Therapy in order to begin working on strengthening her muscles again, in addition to, other specialists, and also connected mom with services. “Despite the odds, the improvement we have seen is nothing short of amazing!” shares the Coordinator, “Her success has truly been a Team Effort between her Pernet Team as well as Mom and extended family….However we cannot forget the determination of my client herself!”
We're pleased to announce that Patricia Vanasse, LICSW, has been elected to be Pernet's new Board Chair, replacing Jack Woods.
We would like to express our sincere thanks to Our Lady of Mount Carmel Golden Years Club for holding a baby shower for Pernet Family Health Service on October 15, 2019. They have held baby showers like this one for Pernet in the past to support Pernet. June Carelli organized this year's shower, as she did 22 years ago in 1997! Our Lady of Mount Carmel Golden Years Club generously donation of a carload of baby items including, but not limited to, diapers, clothing, blankets, knit handmade goods, baby care hygiene products, baby food, and monetary donations. These items are going to help so many families in need. Thank you for Our Lady of Mount Carmel Golden Years Club. See the picture of the Catholic Free Press article from 1997 and the baby shower this past Tuesday.
Pernet had the honor of hosting Congressman Joe Kennedy III for a visit this past week.
Congressman Joe Kennedy at Pernet Family Health Service with the Worcester Healthy Baby Collaborative.
Congressman Joe Kennedy asking questions about the Worcester Healthy Baby Collaborative.
Sara Shields, MD, presenting on the Worcester Healthy Baby Collaborative to Congressman Joe Kennedy at Pernet Family Health Service.
Congressman Joe Kennedy
Pernet's Executive Director, Sheilah H. Dooley, was honored at this past weekend's Celebration of the Assumption at the Sister of Saint Anne in Marlborough for her work with the International Secretariat for Justice, Peace, and the Integrity of Creation.
Earlier this week, we celebrated the birthday of Father Pernet, our founder and namesake. Born on July 23, 1824, Stephen Pernet had a tremendous impact upon society in his day and at present.
THE CATHOLIC FREE PRESS
June 15, 2019
By Tanya Connor | The Catholic Free Press
WORCESTER – Fathers matter to their children, and they affect their children’s lives.
Pernet Family Health Service tries to communicate this year-round – not just when Father’s Day rolls around. The agency, funded in part by Partners in Charity, aims to help men be better fathers.
To do this, it holds weekly, 10-session programs. One is at Worcester County House of Correction for men incarcerated there. The other, mainly for men involved with the Department of Children and Families (DCF), is at Pernet’s Millbury Street facility.
Christopher Nelson, director of Pernet’s Family Support Services, coordinates the agency’s Fathers and Family Program, which includes the 10-week sessions.
At Pernet he and Mary Jane Foley, a service coordinator for early intervention, use the Nurturing Father’s Program, a curriculum by Mark Perlman that has helped numerous fathers over the years, he said.
He said Pernet developed its own program for the House of Correction, and has been offering it at least four times a year for about 12 years as part of the facility’s Substance Abuse Treatment Opportunity Program. He and Denise Rowan, Pernet’s mental health access coordinator and a parent aide, co-facilitate one group of 10 to 14 prisoners at a time.
“It’s nice to have a female to provide a woman’s perspective,” he said. The program covers co-parenting, which the men will often need to do, as many will not be with the children’s mother after they are released.
“We provide each inmate with a journal,” Mr. Nelson said. “At the end of each class we ask them a journal question, which gets them to reflect on a subject we talked about or something we’re going to talk about. … They bring their journal to the next class. They have the opportunity to read what they wrote.”
The first goes like this: “Put yourself in your children’s shoes and write about how it feels to be away from your dad.”
“That’s pretty heavy, and often it’s emotional,” Mr. Nelson said. “When they talk about their kids, they’re vulnerable.” But having in common the fact that they’re incarcerated and away from their children helps make them willing to be open. They begin to realize the impact their criminal activity had on their children.
“When a parent goes to jail, certainly they’re punished,” Mr. Nelson said. “However, kids suffer from that.”
He said people sometimes question why Pernet encourages these men to be involved with their children. His response is, “They’re going to be released back into our community,” since they haven’t committed serious crimes. “It’s imperative that we rehabilitate them, and part of that is how they’re going to reunify with their children and their family.”
Pernet’s idea is, “it’s never too late to reunify with your kids,” under the right circumstances, he said. “It could be really important as a means of breaking a cycle, so that perhaps their children won’t make the mistakes they made.”
Mr. Nelson said he and Mrs. Rowan help connect prisoners who’ve completed the program with resources they can access after they’re released, including those offered by Pernet. He told of helping one man get forms to fill out so he could visit his child.
“To me that was like a continuation of our program,” Mr. Nelson said.
In another case, Pernet’s connections with DCF enabled him to help a man communicate with the department, he said.
“Ultimately, what I think we’re doing … we plant a seed that serves to remind them that they matter to their children and that they can and should play an important role in their children’s lives,” Mr. Nelson said.
The program stresses the importance of fathers, in part by having participants reflect on their experiences with their own fathers, he said.
“One of the most important classes we teach is about domestic violence and healthy relationships, and how these adult relationships impact children,” he said. Participants are asked, “What have your children learned about relationships from you?”
Asked if God, religion and faith are brought into the program, Mr. Nelson thought awhile, recalling that such topics have been brought up.
“I don’t know as we do it as much as … the men share it,” he said finally. It comes out when they’re talking about support “and what they need to be healthy, to feel whole.”
Some prisoners are more spiritual than others, so the co-facilitators take a fairly neutral approach, he said. But the inmates accept each other’s spiritual sharing.
“We are teaching men to be more emotionally literate … able to express their feelings as a means to communicate … and relate to others in a healthier way … most importantly to their children,” Mr. Nelson said.
He said he questions whether some of the men are emotionally ready to handle the group. But he – and they – have been surprised. He told of one who thought he wasn’t ready, but kept coming anyway and became very engaged in the program.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve … seen a father” later, from one of the groups at the prison or at Pernet, sometimes with his children, he said. “They recall the group and how helpful it was.”
The fathers have varying situations with their children’s mothers, but if they stay committed to their goal of being a consistent part of their children’s lives, it can happen, he said.
Asked if Pernet’s efforts have a broader impact, Mr. Nelson said he’d like to believe that, if they help men be better fathers and better members of society, “that’s going to have a positive impact on our community, because this person will live a responsible life.” And maybe find a way to give back.
Click here to read on The Catholic Free Press website.
Pernet Family Health Service, Inc.