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Grant brings hope for a promising future to homeless babies, children

Toddler looks up into camera
The Well Babies Initiative ensures babies in homeless families are healthy and safe.

Each year, nearly 2.5 million children in the United States experience homelessness, making children the majority of the homeless population.

Here in Summit County, dozens of families face this same plight, including more than 100 children and babies. Statistics show that children in homeless families are more likely to have low birth weights and develop chronic illnesses like asthma. But thanks to programs like the Well Babies Initiative of Family Promise of Summit County, infants and toddlers in homeless families are safer and healthier than ever before.

This year, a $2,000 grant from the Millennium Fund will help the agency serve homeless parents and children from birth to age 2. This critical initiative addresses all aspects of a baby's physical health, including childhood development, nutrition and safety.

"The project's goal is to meet the health and wellness needs of homeless children ages 0-2 through parent education, community resource referrals, provision of baby health essentials, and financial assistance for well-baby checkups and vaccinations," said Jeff Wilhite, executive director of Family Promise.

Through this program, parents who receive housing and services through Family Promise can learn baby care basics about feeding, bathing, sleeping and other important safety issues. They also receive essential supplies like diapers, wipes and car seats.

"When parents know the basic daily needs of their children are met, they can focus on concrete and future-minded steps toward sustainable independence," Wilhite said.

Baby sits in brand new car seat
Jasmine's son, Joseph, sits in his new car seat.

That was exactly the case for Jasmine McCroskey, a 22-year-old mother of two young children who came to Family Promise for help finding housing. In addition getting housing support, she also received new car seats, diapers and wipes for her kids, Joseph, 2, and Mylee, 1.

"I have two kids, and they're both in diapers and they both need wipes," she said. "It's expensive, so that helps a lot. Their whole program is just very helpful. I love it."

The Well Babies Initiative also offers financial assistance for well-baby doctor visits and vaccinations, ensuring parents are able to keep their children healthy and access basic medical care.

With this support, Wilhite said at least 90 percent of families graduate from the program with secure housing and employment. And 95 percent of parents and children they serve remain together throughout their homeless journey – a crucial piece of the puzzle that often gets overlooked.

"Family Promise is the only organization in Summit County that allows homeless families to stay together rather than placing men and women in separate shelters," he said. "This greatly increases children's stability and eases their transition between homes."

Thanks to this year's grant from the Millennium Fund, at least 25 homeless babies and 15 parents – including Jasmine – will receive these critical services and take their first step toward permanent housing and a promising future.

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