Healthy Start is a program to support young parents between the ages of 13 and 24. It was initiated in 1994 and is a collaboration of five agencies in King County, and now serves hundreds of families a year.
Healthy Start is based on the Parents as Teachers (PAT) curriculum and the goals of the program are to help young first-time parents to:
Participants in the program also attend a monthly group meeting with other young parents and children who are enrolled in Healthy Start. These meetings are a time to share a meal, socialize and support each other while learning new life skills. In the past, these meetings have featured sessions on self-care for moms, CPR, cooking, sex education, and meditation.
In order to enroll, one of the parents (either mom or dad) must be between the ages of 13 and 24. Parents can enroll during pregnancy and up until the child is one year old. Healthy Start serves children until they are 6 years old.
Growing up – Margaret
Healthy Start at RAYS has completely changed my life as a parent and as an adult. The program has helped greatly increase my confidence and self esteem. I have received resources that improved the quality of my life and my son’s life. The material items as well as the community resources and one on one support helped to take away some of the constant stress of being a young, single parent, so that I can be more loving and patient with my son.
“I began to feel overwhelmed with the responsibility of parenting and underwhelmed by lack of encouragement.”
Before I was being mentored, I did not believe I could thrive on my own or that I would be a successful parent. When I came into the program, I thought I had enough support from family and friends. As my son was about three months old, I began to feel overwhelmed with the responsibility of parenting and underwhelmed by lack of encouragement from the people around me. From the very first meeting with my Family Support Specialist, Karina, she made me feel comfortable and capable. She pointed out my strengths and told me about all the things I was doing right. She complimented me and made me feel important. I realized that I had bee missing this kind of support in my life.
Not only did Karina help me with my immediate needs, such as clothing, diapers, wipes, toys for son, but she also helped me to find housing. She asked me if I would like to be more independent, and she helped me to gain the skills and confidence requried to live on my own. I was able to get into transitional housing, and now I am in permanent housing through King County. I am so grateful for the opportunity to get into a stable housing program so that I no longer have to rely on family or a roommate to afford a safe and nice place to live.
“I had someone helping me along the way to help me develop a special bond with my son.”
I have learned and grown so much as a parent through the curriculum at Healthy Start. It has been very helpful to learn about my son’s development every month and have activities to do with him that I know will benefit him. I feel fortunate that I had someone helping me along the way to help me develop a special bond with my son. In addition to parenting skills, I have also learned life skills such as money management, which have been extremely beneficial in my life.
Since being in the Healthy Start program, I have been living on my own for almost two years. I recently graduated with honors from Bellevue College with my Associates in Arts and Sciences, and I have been accepted into a reputable internship program in my church. I am living with confidence that I can try new things and succeed life because I have had the opportunity to grow and be successful in what I have done so far.
*Name changed for confidentiality purposes.