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KPBS Midday Edition

Family support program First 5 First Steps enrolling 100 more families in South Bay region

First 5 First Steps Group Photo.jpeg
First 5 First Steps
Pictured are the First 5 First Steps staff after attending a training based on healthy pregnancy with a focus on prematurity prevention at Liberty Station in November 2018.

The South Bay region of the First 5 First Steps program currently has the capacity to enroll 100 more families to support through its free services. The services provided include home visits, support with child development, relationship bonding, and rental and food assistance.

First 5 First Steps has been helping families across the county since 2013, and is a program of the San Diego Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and First 5 San Diego. The program is divided into four regions throughout the county: Central, East, North and South regions.

Michelle Favela, First 5 First Steps program director in the South region, joined KPBS Midday Edition to talk about the program and the impacts of the pandemic.

"We definitely have families who come to us sometimes with limited supports, so the first question that we ask is 'what do they need?' before we can really get into talking about development and that relationship building, bonding and attachment," Favela said. "We have been able to connect families to those resources in the community such as connections to housing support, connections to food distribution sites, connections to, in certain situations, a D.V. shelter. So that continuous support through somebody who is listening to a family on an ongoing basis and being able to help them navigate through those uncertainties, then we can also get into all of those topics of development and that relationship building with their baby," she said.

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The program serves expectant parents and parents of infants and toddlers.

"Most of the families that we serve have limited social supports. So, for example, military families, newly arrived immigrant or refugee families, teen parents and families with limited income," Favela said.

She said the pandemic brought challenges to the organization, but some opportunities as well.

"We have been very fortunate to receive additional funding, and that has allowed us to be able to grow our team," Favela said. "So we currently have a team of 13 family support specialists that are serving the South region only. We also serve San Diego County as part of the larger team through the other different agencies and regions, but, in the South alone, we have 13 family support specialists."

Favela said one challenge brought on by the pandemic was having to transition from home visits to virtual visits, taking away the personal experience.

Families can enroll into the program by calling the organization at 619-650-1597, emailing them at firststeps@csbcs.org or visiting the First 5 First Steps website.