Jeff: Thank you Cindy so much for doing this for the Durham Connects blog. If you wouldn't mind, start with talking to us about what program you work for and what your program does.
Cindy: I work for Welcome Baby- it's a family resource center here in Durham. We provide a variety of services. One of our most popular and frequented programs is the Giving Closet-families can come select clothing, baby items, diapers and formula six times a year. We also have a Car Seat Safety Program-families can participate in a single session car seat safety class and purchase a car seat for as little as $10.00, depending on family income and we do hospital visits, which is how Welcome Baby started 26 years ago. We also offer a variety of evidenced based Positive Parenting Curriculums. All of our services are available in English and Spanish .
Jeff: And this is available for all families in Durham?
Cindy: Yes-we are not income based. We serve the entire Durham community that are expecting and or have children under 5.
Jeff: So you would say your program is a universal program for Durham County residents.
Cindy: Yes. And we are a great referral agency as well. So we know lots of partners in the community and can help connect families.
Jeff: That's fantastic. Do you still have the Cribs for Kids program?
Cindy: Yes-we do.
Jeff: That's a program where anyone can get a pack and play and it's …
Cindy: $10.00 to the families and $50.00 is the cost for us. We are entering our 6th program year and we've distributed close to 800 cribs and we've raised over $60,000. As you know the program started at Durham Connects. We don't receive any direct funding and we do all the fundraising ourselves. We've never had a wait-list which is very nice and we rely on our partners in the community that make home visits to assess the sleep situation and then make the referral to us.
Jeff: So you mentioned Welcome Baby started 26 years ago in the hospital. Do you mind talking a little bit about that history?
Cindy: Sure. It was really a volunteer organization and we were the welcome wagon of Durham- so greeting families with new babies and I think back then they got a little gift basket and some information on community resources, coupons, etc. Then we slowly started to grow into a little larger program and we took on the Car Seat Safety program and then had the Giving Closet-Welcome Baby was located in the Lakewood Shopping Center for a long time. Then they started to introduce single topic workshops with families and they did that for 8 years and then began (when the evidence based curriculums came out) to train facilitators and did a paradigm shift from the single topics to the multi-week series curriculum.
Jeff: So how long have you been with Welcome Baby?
Cindy: I just completed 5 years this past summer.
Jeff: What is your exact title here at Welcome Baby?
Cindy: My informal title here is Parent Educator and then the official county title is Community Service Outreach Coordinator and the Cribs for Kids Coordinator.
Jeff: You mentioned how you are in the hospitals and that's how you see some clients, how are some other ways that families find out about Welcome Baby?
Cindy: Pregnancy Care Management, Health Department, Durham Connects, Healthy Families Durham, Durham Early Head Start, EDCI, Pre-K Program. We’ve done some lunch and learns with Blue Cross Blue Shield, Durham County, we are talking with SAS about doing some workshops with them. We outreach and we've been working at the Durham Rescue Mission, Genesis Home, Cascades. I met someone recently from Housing for New Hope, We hope to talk to them about offering Positive Parenting Curriculum to their clients. We do a lot of outreach and we're always happy to talk about Welcome Baby.
Jeff: You did mention a lot of practitioners, do you have a large social media reach too?
Cindy: I think it's growing, we don't have a social media coordinator, you'd be looking at her. We have been talking to our families about connecting with us on Facebook, it's faster and easier for us to post things on our Facebook page than our website. And a lot of times we will just decide to do something fun and we don't have enough time to post it on the website so we use our Facebook page. We use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Good Reads.
Jeff: That's good! You mentioned you've been doing this for 5 years. In those 5 years what has changed in terms of the way you all provide services?
Cindy: We don't rely on people finding out about us through newsletters and registering that way, our recruitment has changed and we are broader now by seeking agencies like Genesis Home. I think we are known throughout the community now.
Jeff: Have you noticed any trends in the last 5 years that have changed? Family’s needs changing? Or who is receiving your services?
Cindy: We serve a fairly broad community. We are not income based, every Durham family may need support at some point. There has been, although we would like to see more of it, a paradigm shift and the stigmatism is not so heavy now that "oh you need a parenting class? You must not be a good parent." Which is not true! When we are talking with families that are coming through the Giving Closet that's a big recruitment opportunity for us. We aren't saying you are a bad parent but we are saying we can offer you information and we aren't here to judge you but we are here to support you.
Jeff: What is the most common question that you receive about your services?
Cindy: If there is a fee associated with our services. When families find out that it's free for anyone, they are so excited. Also, confidentiality is a big issue for families, on the very first night of class we reassure attendees this is confidential. We can't offer strategies and support if we don't understand where families are coming from. We try and make it a safe place for families to share and the stories stay within our four walls.
Jeff: Does the eligibility criteria ever come up? Do people say "I didn't know you were universal but that's great to know!" Have you had to struggle with that stigmatism of being income based?
Cindy: Yes-Even for Giving Closet. We are in the realm of reuse and recycle. Our baby clothes a lot of times look pristine and brand new because they've been worn once. Even from an ecological standpoint-just come use our services even if you can afford to buy brand new clothes.
Jeff: That's really good to hear! You make a great point-anybody can come here as long as you've paid it forward and the items aren't damaged.
Cindy: And families that use Giving Closet, we often see them coming back to donate things that they don't need anymore.
Jeff: What are some common barriers/obstacles that you see that if they were taken away, would help you do your job better?
Cindy: Again, I think the stigmatism it still exists-if we can start to erase that even more. Transportation is still a barrier. We do have funding to provide transportation but it's not perfect. Again, they are already taking 2 hours out of their day to come to class and when they have to tack on an hour for pick up and an hour... sometimes I don't think they get home until 9:00 pm depending on the number of families we have on transportation. I think it helps that we are out in the community providing services so families don't necessarily have to travel as far.
Jeff: And when you are doing the parenting classes is childcare provided?
Cindy: Currently, we are able to provide childcare, meals and transportation for our families.
Jeff: If there was one thing you could tell practitioners that work with the same population or have the ability to reach this population, what would it be?
Cindy: Just getting to know the family and not just giving them a list of agencies-because families probably won't take the time to call. But if you have a conversation with the family you can pick up on what resources they may need. Ways to connect them to specific agencies. I don't think families necessarily sit on the phone and call around.
Jeff: In terms of talking to practitioners about understanding families. What would be one thing you would tell them?
Cindy: Go ahead and ask specific questions. "What can I do for you?" It's easy for families to say "I don't need help." I think if we re-frame the question and say "I'm here for you -what can I do for you?" Or if you notice there isn't a car in the driveway and they aren't on a bus line-"What ways can I help you access transportation?"
Jeff: If you had a magic wand and you could do anything with it, what would you do?
Cindy: I would make a family resource truck rodeo. I would take every program on the road and go from community to community. I would have the Giving Closet, the Diaper Bank, WIC, Medicaid and we would go over to Holton Career Center, Cheek road and Guess Road. We don't get a lot of families from that side of town. And again, logistically if they don't have transportation it's really hard to get here.
Jeff: I like that idea! If you could take one picture that represented what you do and the outcomes that you hope to achieve, what would it be? What would you take a picture of?
Cindy: One of the families we were working with one year, somebody asked them, "Why did you decide to come to Welcome Baby? General information?" And one mom had a tear rolling down her eye and she said "I just want to stop saying NO. I feel like I'm mean and I just say NO all the time." And for her to walk away after 8 weeks of a series and say "I don't have to say no anymore." To have a more positive relationship for adults and children. I don't think parents feel any better than kids do about negativity, yelling or using physical punishment. If it's just one strategy that families walk away with, I think it's a real opportunity for them to build upon it.
Jeff: If I were to get in your car right now and turn on your radio or CD player what would I hear?
Cindy: So it depends on what time of day. In the morning it's generally classic rock, to get the day started, and in the afternoon it can be country or jazz depending on my mood.
Jeff: And what would be some of the classic rock bands that we would hear?
Cindy: The Eagles. Journey is my favorite! Phil Collins.
Jeff: What about country bands?
Cindy: Carrie Underwood, Jason Aldean.
Jeff: Are in you a band right now?
Cindy: Am I in a band right now?! No I am not!
Jeff: If you could start a band right now, what instrument would you play?!
Cindy-Oh, the drums!
Jeff: What genre of music would you play and what instrument would you play?
Cindy: The Blues-I don’t listen to it on the radio but we love to go and listen to blues music.
Jeff: Would you sing?
Cindy: You know, I cannot sing.
Jeff: When you’re flipping through the television, what is the one show that comes on TV and you always stop to watch it? Doesn’t matter if you have seen it 500 hundred times!
Cindy: Guilty pleasure-Gilmore Girls.
Jeff: Oh, okay! Have you seen the whole series?
Cindy: Multiple times.
Jeff: Multiple times, okay! Well my guilty pleasure is Big Brother! I love that show. What is the one household chore/daily life activity that everyone else seems to hate but you secretly love to do?
Cindy: Vacuum. Nobody wants to vacuum. When we had carpet, I would vacuum myself out of a room because its perfect-there's no footprints.
Jeff: Do you have a special awesome vacuum that you use?
Cindy: No, we actually hate our vacuum and we can’t wait for this one to die but we can’t buy a new one until this one is on its last.
Jeff: What is one interesting fact about you that not a lot of people know.
Cindy: I recently joined an all-women’s roofing crew.
Jeff: An all woman’s roofing crew…wow!
Jeff: Please explain what that is!
Cindy: We roof houses for Durham Habitat. I got on the mailing list and I don't know how they knew about me though! You don't have to know anything about roofing. I was out of town the first week and then contacted them again and said “Again, I don’t know anything about roofing!” And she said “You don’t have to know anything about roofing!” So we are finishing up one right now and we are starting up another one on Saturday so it’s kind of a fun thing! It's kind of a cool thing.
Jeff: Does your crew have t-shirts yet?
Cindy: We are in the midst of designing, our tagline is "I'd rather roof it than clean it."
Jeff: That’s really good! Well, awesome that is it. Thank you so much for doing this!