Help for Families: Where to Turn

Around the Monadnock region, five organizations have been quietly working to build a network of support for local families — the Grapevine Family and Community Resource Center, Healthy Starts at HCS, Monadnock Family Services, Rise for baby and family, and the River Center Family and Community Resource Center have all partnered to support families in need.

Backed in turn by the Monadnock United Way, these five organizations have been working together as the Monadnock Alliance for Families to provide a variety of services, including home visits and family support, specialized services for children with developmental delays and disabilities, and classes and enrichment opportunities for children of all ages and their parents/caregivers.

Each organization offers different services; some of the five serve the entire region, while others focus on a smaller slice of it. All five work together to ensure each family gets the services that suit them best, often referring a family to another organization in the group if necessary. Because they offer programs and services at no or limited cost, affordability is not an obstacle for families looking for help.

What does each organization offer?

The Grapevine Family and Community Resource Center in Antrim offers home visits and support for families in the eastern Monadnock region, with a focus on Antrim, Bennington, Francestown, Hancock, Hillsborough and Deering, although they are open to families from any town. Grapevine also has a preschool, playgroups, a community wood bank and tool shed and runs the Avenue A Teen Center (the only teen center in the region). Home visits are free, while some programs require a small fee. 

Healthy Starts at HCS in Keene offers home visits from parent educators and social workers for Medicaid-eligible pregnant women and families around the entire Monadnock region. Nursing visits are available for children with chronic illness. Healthy Starts also offers parenting classes and playgroups. All services are free for families who qualify.

Monadnock Family Services — in Keene, Winchester, Walpole and Peterborough — offers family information and education classes and programs for caregivers and children of varying ages. The organization also offers therapy, case management and psychiatry for children, youth and families with behavioral and mental health needs. Caregiver classes and programs are usually free. Therapeutic services are billed to insurance.

Rise for baby and family in Keene provides specialized services for children birth to age 3 with possible or confirmed disabilities or developmental delays. These services include physical, speech and occupational therapy, as well as counseling. Rise works with families around the entire region and there is no charge to families for services.

The River Center Family and Community Resource Center in Peterborough offers home visits for families in the eastern Monadnock region, with a focus on Peterborough, Jaffrey and nearby towns. The River Center also has playgroups, parenting classes and even money management classes. Home visits are free; some programs require a small fee.

What is home visiting?

Home visiting is a service where an individual comes to a family’s home to help them with what they need as a parent/caregiver. As one local mom said of her Healthy Starts home visitor, “When people ask me, ‘What does your home visitor do?’ I can only reply with, ‘Well, what do you need?’”

Every family sets their own goals when working with a home visitor, then they work together to find the best ways to achieve them. A home visitor arrives ready to listen, then helps each family develop a plan for what they want to achieve.

While every family is unique, home visitors often support families with breastfeeding, understanding how children grow and develop, managing challenging behaviors and overall parenting. Home visitors can offer support during pregnancy, too, and be a resource for families as their children grow.

Home visitors also help families understand what resources and services may be available to them, including medical coverage, housing assistance and fuel assistance, and how to qualify for them. A home visitor will work with the family, so they understand the process to get the help they need.

Why attend a group or class?

Families come to a group or class to connect with other families, to gain new information and to share ideas. Grapevine, Healthy Starts, Monadnock Family Services and the River Center all offer classes and groups around a variety of topics. Some are long term and meet regularly with no end date, while others last a few weeks and focus on a specific question or subject.

Concerns about your baby?

If families have questions or concerns about how their young children (up to age 3) are learning, talking, moving and behaving, they can request an evaluation to learn more about their child’s development. Families start this process by completing an intake with Monadnock Developmental Services. They can access the evaluation and subsequent services, if eligible, through Rise for baby and family.

“Parents know their children best,” said Alicia Deaver, executive director of Rise for baby and family. “If families have concerns, it is important for their child to be evaluated as early as possible. Early intervention services can truly change a child’s life!”

For infants and toddlers who have experienced traumatic events, Monadnock Family Services offers Child Parent Psychotherapy (CPP), which works with the caregiver and child together to help strengthen their relationship and grow closer.

COVID-related changes

All five organizations have adapted to the restrictions that have come with the COVID-19 pandemic. Many programs, including some home visits, are currently offered virtually via video conferencing platforms such as Zoom or by telephone. In-person visits are available where they are safe and practical.

Because the COVID situation can and does change quickly, all five organizations are constantly evaluating their policies about in-person versus virtual meetings and events. Each understands that in-person events work best for some families while others prefer to meet virtually. During these challenging times, flexibility is a must.

“We know this can be very hard for families,” said Margaret Nelson, executive director of the River Center. “Some people feel safer with a virtual visit, while others really want the in-person connection of a face-to-face visit or playgroup. We do our best to provide the support each family needs while protecting everyone’s safety. It really is a partnership!”

Rise for Baby and Family is at 147 Washington St. in Keene. For more information, or to fill out a childcare application, visit riseforbabyandfamily.org. Families may also call the main number at (603) 357-1395, or email info@riseforbabyandfamily.org.