Originally published: September 2, 2021
United Way grants to help fuel FAMILY Inc.’s home visits and outreach efforts
Family Inc. has been awarded $50,000 in grants by United Way of the Midlands for its home visitation and mobile outreach programs.
That includes $30,000 for the nonprofit organization’s Parents as Teachers Early Childhood Home Visitation services, according to Kimberly Kolakowski, executive director of Family Inc. The agency will continue to provide Family support services personalized to the unique needs of each child.
In addition, $20,000 will help fund screenings for pregnant women and children younger than 5 years old in rural areas of Pottawattamie and Mills Counties with the help of Family’s Mobile Wellness Unit.
“As a result of COVID-19, the rate of children receiving the recommended well child visits that ensure a child is progressing developmentally and continuing to thrive drastically decreased,” Kolakowski said in a press release. “More families found themselves financially unstable, and accessing healthcare has become increasingly difficult.
“Family Inc.’s Mobile Wellness Unit brings preventative screenings to the communities that need it most,” she said. “Children may receive lead, vision, hearing, oral health, developmental and social-emotional screenings. Connections are made to insurance, medical and dental homes as indicated by screening results for ongoing preventative care.”
Families may also be connected with a parent educator who can offer long-term, in-home Family support services through age 5, Kolakowski said. Family empowers families to set and achieve goals that are important to them, with the professional guidance of their parent educator.
“With the help of this grant, Family will realize at least a 10% increase in referrals for service for women, children and adolescents from rural areas and/or those who identify as Hispanic,” she said. “There’s an underserved population we want to be able to identify and serve.”
Healthcare services are limited in some rural areas, and transportation can be a challenge for the families, Kolakowski said.
“The support provided by United Way of the Midlands and its valued donors through this funding will have a lasting impact on our community — not just during the challenging time of COVID-19, but for years to come,” she said. “Our community’s investment in early intervention for our young children demonstrates a commitment to a brighter future for everyone.”
Family’s Mobile Wellness Unit made its debut on Feb. 27 at the Drive-Thru Dr. Seuss Literacy Celebration at the Charles E. Lakin Human Services Campus. With the RV outfitted with a dental chair and the needed equipment, Family conducted 19 oral health screenings, as well as fluoride treatments and 12 vision screenings.
It was the first time screenings had ever been offered at the Dr. Seuss celebration, Kolakowski said.
“Since that time, we have been able to conduct over 250 screenings” in rural Pottawattamie and Mills Counties, she said.
The unit is taken to schools when students are being given oral health screenings as part of the I-Smile program, Kolakowski said. Then, if schools do not want outside visitors because of a COVID-19 outbreak, students can go out to the mobile unit to have a screening, she said.
Kolakowski believes there are additional ways the mobile unit can be used and is checking with local partners to see if they have functions where the Mobile Wellness Unit could provide a service. She believes it could be useful in disaster situations for distributing food and supplies.
“We’ve also partnered with Pottawattamie County Public Health, and they’ve been joining us at a few screening events and administering the COVID vaccine,” she said.