First Step Family Support Center

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Community Connection Baby Shower a Success!

Kelsi-and-Guest

On May 21st at Vern Burton Community Center, the Clallam Perinatal Mental Health Task Force, chaired by First Step, hosted the first annual Community Connection Baby Shower, a resource fair that promoted the well-being of our community by celebrating expecting and new families. Participants met local providers, learned skills to strengthen their emotional well-being, developed social connections, and tapped into educational experiences to help them along their journey into parenthood.

Participants attended classes for family communication strategies, a question and answer session with OB providers, parenting and fathering tips, an introduction to breathwork, wellness and self-care, and pelvic floor strengthening. Car seat checks were also available in the parking lot at Vern Burton. Also offered were free diapers and supplies for babies, a photo booth, and door prizes.

60 individuals from partnering agencies attended and hosted a booth and/or an activity with an additional 11 volunteers from the community. Not only did local agencies have the opportunity to meet new families and provide resource connections, but they also gained stronger relationships across the family support network in Clallam and Jefferson Counties.

Program Manager Kelsi Millet thanked community partners, stating, “We would like to thank community partners for the collaborative efforts put forth in successfully creating and implementing the Community Connection Baby Shower! Over 98 families attended the event. Your expertise and partnership are what made this successful. Thank you for investing in the well-being of our community & families. It has been a pleasure working on this project with each of you and we look forward to continued collaboration.”

The Clallam Perinatal Mental Health Task Force meets quarterly to increase community capacity to address perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. To join a meeting or to learn more, email Kelsi Millet at Kelsi_fstep@olypen.com.

Diaper and Supply Depots Added in Clallam and Jefferson Counties

Diaper-Baby

Approximately one-third of families nationwide are unable to afford the diapers they need to keep their baby clean and dry, typically an $80-$100 cost per child per month.

Through funding provided by the Washington State Department of Commerce, First Step has transformed its emergency diaper program into a robust Diaper Bank network across the Olympic Peninsula offering substantial diaper assistance for families in both Clallam and Jefferson counties at multiple convenient locations.

First Step started offering the broader diaper services in April of this year, and since that time has distributed over 64,000 diapers to clients, accompanied by almost 800 packages of baby wipes. Each child in need is allowed up to two large sleeves of diapers and two packages of wipes per month, a dramatic health and economic benefit to families facing financial shortages.

With the addition of generous community donations, First Step has been able to distribute 63 cans of infant formula since April 2022, in spite of the troubling formula crisis throughout the earlier part of this year.

Diaper and supply pickup locations are located at First Step Drop-In Center during normal Drop-In hours, YMCA Port Townsend during limited office hours, and Brinnon Community Center. Other locations are offering First Step sourced diapers to their current clients, including North Olympic Healthcare Network, Jamestown Healing Clinic, and Jefferson Healthcare.

Funding provided by the Department of Children, Youth, and Families for concrete goods brought safety equipment to the supply depots. Funding provided by United Healthcare has been used to for infant carriers. Families have received baby gates, high chairs, strollers, infant carriers, and breastfeeding support products.

For more information about diapers and supplies, or to donate or partner with us, contact Kelsi Millet at (360) 457-8355 or Kelsi_fstep@olypen.com

Meet Our New Executive Director

Mother-And-Children

Meet Our New Executive Director

After waving a fond farewell to a beloved leader, Nita Lynn, at her retirement on June 30th, First Step is excited to formally introduce the new Executive Director, Elisia Anderson.

Anderson comes with over 12 years of leadership experience at various northwest non-profits and holds a degree in Psychology from The Evergreen State College.

“I find people fascinating and inspiring. My career choices have often been driven by a deep curiosity about resilience and how to create opportunities for people to build their ability to bounce and thrive despite the challenges, stressors, and trauma that they have and will face. This has led me to work with Veterans living with PTSD, children and adults with disabilities, and supporting women to reach economic stability,” shares Anderson.

When she started in March of 2020 as Program Manager, Anderson immediately joined Nita in navigating First Step programs through the COVID pandemic, leading efforts that distributed over $296,000 in support to families in need in a variety of formats.

“During my first conversation with Nita, I was enthralled with the vast fabric that makes up the First Step suite of programs.” Elisia and the team at First Step have rolled up their sleeves and worked to ensure that programs are continuously serving families’ ever-changing needs.

Named Executive Director as of July 1, 2022, Anderson quickly and seamlessly stepped into her role.

“I am looking forward to working with the board on a new strategic plan that will guide our work in our post-pandemic future. It is First Step’s 50th anniversary year and I am excited to begin the process of planning for the next 50 years. I have a passion for listening to people and finding collaborative solutions to help each of us meet our full potential.”

She goes on to say, “I am honored to lead an agency that fundamentally believes in the strengths of parents. My hope is that all children and families in our community will have the support they need to thrive, and I look forward to our agency continuing to bring these services and supports to the North Olympic Peninsula.”

First Step welcomes Elisia Anderson, Executive Director, and wishes her all the best in her new role.

Protective Factors

Mother-And-Children

Protective Factors

At First Step, positive change occurs for families who use the Protective Factors Framework as a guiding pathway to improve their lives. Many young families in our area live in environments where there may be poverty, crime, substance use, domestic violence, lack of adequate housing, food insecurity, lack of transportation, and limited access to healthcare.

Helping families layer protective factors into their lives increases the health and well-being of the family unit, and mitigates or even eliminates the risk of negative outcomes in the lives of parents and children.

Protective factors are:

Parental Resilience- parents thrive when they have the tools to manage stress, make good decisions, and be strong leaders for their families

Social Connections- families thrive in inclusive environments in which they can build and maintain social connections for mutual support and a sense of belonging in the community

Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development- parents excel when they have a safe space to learn about their child’s development, discuss and explore their issues and concerns, and try out new parenting strategies

Concrete Support in Times of Need- families are healthier and happier when they have a safe place to go for assistance so that they can express their needs and find connections to services in the community. Sometimes the need is as simple as diapers and wipes or an open ear

Social and Emotional Competence of Children- children excel when parents are available to nurture their emotional development, including being present and supportive of their children as they learn to develop a positive identity in a diverse society.

When families build Protective Factors into their lives they have a greater opportunity to flourish in spite of the chaos and risks that may surround them. Protective Factors provide an opportunity for optimization of child development as well as reduced likelihood of abuse or neglect in the home.

First Step’s mission, “Promoting the healthy development of children and families on the North Olympic Peninsula by building family strengths” remains the cornerstone of the agency’s work, well into its fiftieth year of service. (50 YEARS!)

First Step Drop-In Center – A Gathering Place for Families

Melia, Drop-In Coordinator

A Fresh Face at First Step Drop-In Center

When parents and caregivers bring their children to First Step’s Drop-In Center, they find a comfortable place to bring their children for play. There are multiple stimulating and developmentally appropriate rooms for tummy-time play, crawling, and walking, reading a book, and learning to speak and interact through socialization with other families. Pre-school-aged children enjoy larger toys and engage in hands-on activities in the patio space as well as the playground.

The Drop-In Center at First Step offers snacks, coffee, tea, and a place for people to connect. Families can visit, shop our Clothing Closet, ask to be referred to various resources, and even request assistance in obtaining needed safety equipment.

First Step’s new Drop-In Center Coordinator, Melia Winters, is a solo mother of two working on a bachelor’s degree in community health. Her background is in domestic violence advocacy, and she has been a client at the Drop-In Center in the past.

Among the changes Melia has brought to the Drop-In Center, an overarching theme is mindfulness. “When you come to Drop-In you’ll find a safe place to simply just be in the moment.”

Art is always in action, with the most recent project being ice painting, a great activity for almost all ages. Children paint ice cubes and then use the painted ice cubes to create watercolor paintings.

The Garden is Growing

Chi Farms, of Sequim, donates a weekly farm share to the Drop-In Center on Wednesdays, which is portioned and shared with families who come by to play. Herbs and veggies grown in the Drop-In garden are harvested and shared.

Community

A local family living in a nearby apartment come by the Drop-In Center to use the playroom. It is a great space for crawling and learning to walk. Using the variety of large toys at First Step provides excellent child development that they cannot make room for at home. Mom uses the free Clothing Closet as a clothes swap opportunity every time her child grows into the next size of clothing. The family looks forward to the social interactions they have with other families when visiting.

Support in Times of Need

Families from all walks of life will feel occasional hardships and face adversity. When parents experience struggles such as food or supply shortages, lack of transportation, illness, or lack of adequate housing, they are sometimes unable to meet the basic needs of their families. Asking for help can feel embarrassing. Some families are unsure who they can rely on for support.

At First Step, the front lines of support can be found at the Drop-In Center, where families can come for a reprieve from the stress and isolation that pregnancy and parenting can sometimes bring.
Parents and caregivers can ask for help with formula, diapers, and wipes. They can shop for clothing and equipment for newborns, babies, and toddlers, join healthy cooking classes, and find support groups for lactation. Pregnancy tests, condoms, and feminine hygiene products are available and discreetly provided.

Family Well-Being Navigators can match parents and caregivers with local resources to meet their needs in a more personalized way. They can provide emotional support as well, scheduling private time for parents to talk through issues and to request assistance with problem-solving.

The Drop-In Center is designed to address a multi-generational community of family support, available not just to parents and children but also to grandparents, foster families, and anyone pregnant and or caring for young children.

Research indicates that by using a protective factors approach (see Protective Factors), helping parents and caregivers understand their child’s development and social and emotional needs, helping families in need to secure basic necessities, and providing multi-generational support to the whole family, parents/caregivers and children can do well, even in the most challenging environments.

First Step’s Drop-In Center is located at 325 East 6th Street in Port Angeles and is open Monday through Thursday from 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.

Nita Lynn Retires from First Step

Nita Lynn Retirement 6-30-22

Retirement of Nita Lynn June 30th, 2022

Who: Community and Friends of Nita
Where: Vern Burton Center, 308 E 4th
When: Thursday June 30th, 2022 4:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Questions: Call First Step at (360) 457-8355
RSVP HERE

First Step Family Support Center announced the retirement of its long-term Executive Director, Venita “Nita” Lynn, recently and is now inviting the entire community to a party in her honor, a celebration of Lynn’s 39 years at the helm of First Step.

Born in Shelton and raised in Poulsbo, Nita Lynn attended Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California, graduating with a degree in Sociology. The studies, she would say, “put research, approaches, and solutions to a passion for service I seemed to be born with”. Upon her return to the Northwest she settled into Clallam County where she has been practicing that mix of research and passion-fueled service to local families ever since.

Lynn began her work with what would become First Step Family Support Center in 1983, as a home visitor to new moms and dads, teaching parenting classes, and facilitating mutual support groups for young parents. Early successes inspired her to expand First Step to reach an increasingly wider portion of the community.

In a recent note of thanks to First Step and Lynn, a parent who was visited regularly by Lynn in the late 1980’s, then living with her two babies in a decaying garage wrote “[y]our kindness and caring made me see that my children deserve the world, and that I was capable of giving that to them. You were so supportive when I had no one on my side.” After sharing a determined journey to self-sufficiency, the mom, now working in information technologies in a community bank, with children thriving in their own life journeys, closed her note saying “I just wanted to say thank you because you laid the foundation for my success, as a mother and an individual, and I can never repay you for that. At least I can tell you, what you do for a living changed my life and the life of my children.”

By the late ‘90s her work here in Clallam County was known around the State for its innovation and dedication to developing the range of resources to strengthen local families that is characteristic of a vital family support center, and known to be powerful in preventing neglect and abuse at home; in 1997 she was awarded the prestigious Governor’s Child Abuse Prevention Award.

Valued locally, as well as across the state, in 1999 and again in 2009, Lynn was honored with the Soroptimists’ Women of Distinction Award. In 1998 the Sequim Gazette spotlighted Lynn as one of its “Unsung Heroes”, and in 2001, the Peninsula Daily News reported on Lynn’s expansive work in a feature story, celebrating “the house that Nita built”. In 2018, she was honored by the United Way of Clallam County for her leadership at First Step, the wider human services profession, and the community at large.

Mid-career, Lynn earned the Masters degree in adult education and administration from the Woodring College at Western Washington University in 1995, an opportunity to take her organization-building skills to the next level for her local community. In fact, within two years, First Step began a long, exponential growth trajectory it enjoys to this day. Under Lynn’s leadership, First Step was able to add evidence-based family-support programs, services, and staff at a rapid, consistent rate, drawing funds from outside of Clallam County to the community, generating local job growth that has not stopped, year over year since 2000.

In fact, when asked about her most treasured accomplishments, Lynn is quick to note that “I’m so proud that many of our former clients are now First Step staff members—one of the hallmarks of empowering family support centers. And they’re also successful professionals in our community, running medical programs, human service organizations, tribal programs; they’re nurses, retail managers, teachers, small business owners, bankers, and more—the very fabric of our community”.

First Step now offers a range of two-generation-focused services from prenatal support, to home visiting for pregnant and parenting moms and dads, from critical support for new parents struggling with substance use disorder, to school readiness day camps for kindergarten-bound kids, and much more.

In a recent dinner in her honor, long-term First Step Board Member, Orville Campbell, called Lynn the “founder and director of our local treasure, our beloved First Step Family Support Center”, congratulating her for “nearly 40 years of innovative service to the families of Clallam County, and now Jefferson County”. Everyone in the community will have a chance to thank and celebrate Nita Lynn at a community party in her honor on June 30th, from 4:00 to 6:30, at Vern Burton Center, 308 E 4th Ave, in Port Angeles. All are welcome.

Community Connection Baby Shower Resource Fair

Community Connection Baby Shower 5-21-22

Community Connection Baby Shower Resource Fair

Who: Expecting parents, caregivers, and new families
Where: Vern Burton Center, 308 E 4th
When: Saturday, May 21st, 2022 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Questions: Call First Step at (360) 457-8355

The Community Connection Baby Shower is a resource fair to celebrate expecting and new families. Come and meet local providers, learn skills to strengthen your emotional well-being, develop social connections and tap into educational experiences that will help you along your journey into parenthood. Door prizes, free diapers and wipes, gifts for new families, free snacks, and more!

Event includes workshops such as simple and effective parenting tips, fathering topics, classes on breathwork, pelvic floor physical therapy, healthy eating, self-care, and car seat safety.

This event is hosted by First Step and the Perinatal Mental Health Task Force, in partnership with Olympic Medical Center, Mariposa House, North Olympic Health Care Network, Molina Healthcare, United Healthcare, Community Health Plan of Washington, and Obria Medical Clinics.

Check out the Event Schedule!

First Step Newsletter – March 2022 – 50 Years and Growing!


March 2022- Home Visiting Flourishes
Our fiftieth anniversary finds us reflecting upon and celebrating all that has grown at First Step in our first half century. We have stories to tell! In the year ahead we’ll hit the highlights in four quarterly newsletters, each exploring one of our key approaches to family support. We begin with the expansive growth of our home visiting programs on the North Olympic Peninsula…
View Full March Newsletter

Free Training on Perinatal Mental Health & Substance Use in the Perinatal Period


This FREE training is for Washington state providers who practice IN Clallam and Jefferson Counties through a grant from the Department of Children, Youth, and Families. Learn how to effectively identify and screen parents experiencing substance use disorders.This one-day training is appropriate for a range of providers, including OBs, pediatricians, midwives, RNs, social workers, mental health therapists, doulas, public health employees, home visitors, IBCLCs, and more.

Friday, May 6, 2022 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Topics Include:
Learn about the co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders in the perinatal period.
Learn how to screen and talk about substance use disorder in the perinatal period.
Learn Motivational Interviewing skills to aid in conversation about screening and next steps for parents using substances.
Learn how to make trusting relationships with a trauma informed lens parents using substance.
Understand Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) the interventions and support options for infants and parents.
Learn about new initiatives in child welfare to better support parents accessing resources they need.

Perinatal Support Washington (PS-WA) is a statewide non-profit committed to shining a light on perinatal mental health to support all families and communities. We believe all parents should receive appropriate,timely, and culturally relevant care from conception to baby’s first birthday.

TRAINERS: NADEDJA BESPALOVA, MD & LINDA SEGUR (PCAP), VANIA RUDOLF, MD
6.5 CEUs pending for LICSW, LMHC, LMFT
6.5 Contact Hours approved for RNs
Provider approved by the California Board of Registered Nursing, Provider Number 17084 for 6.5 contact hours.
Registration: https://perinatalsupport.org/event/perinatal-mental-health-substance-use-in-the-perinatal-period-clallam-county/
Email questions to: training@perinatalsupport.org
PDF Version of Flyer

Home Visiting as an Avenue to Recovery & Resilience

Our Parent Child Assistance Program (PCAP) is part of a state-wide program designed to help mothers with substance use disorders build lives free of substance-related problems, and to prevent future children from being exposed to substances prenatally. Our case managers provide outreach and assistance, goal-setting, problem-solving, and coaching to pregnant and parenting mothers. They connect clients to community supports such as recovery, health care services, legal aid, housing, and education. They inspire. They motivate. They believe in the women they serve.

Our PCAP program has been celebrated as one of the top performing sites in Washington State! We are expanding to seven case managers who advocate for up to a total of 106 families at a time. In 2021, we served 121 families with intensive case management and advocacy services during 1,830 home visits. We maintain a wait list that includes families in Clallam and Jefferson Counties. Our case managers work diligently in the community to provide high quality, client-focused advocacy. Our Clinical Supervisor, Christina Miko, is proud to be a part of such a dynamic team of compassionate professionals who empower women. “Case managers foster positive interactions with community partners. Their personal and respectful approaches have made them standouts in our community. When confronted with client service barriers, PCAP case managers expertly navigate challenges, demonstrating the power of partnering and modeling skills required to overcome barriers.”

Designed as an intervention from the heart, PCAP offers effective intervention as evidenced by client outcomes. We follow a harm reduction model addressing quality of life issues along with substance abuse. Our team is addressing the local addiction crisis by helping mothers stabilize. We work to build positive relationships with professionals in the community using a client centered approach.

Speaking to client success, Christina Miko notes “we have a number of clients attending Peninsula College. Some are securing their high school diplomas so they can attend four-year colleges. Others are working on the HS21+ or their associate degree (AA) and are learning to juggle academics with parenting. Witnessing the self-efficacy of these clients in navigating out of addiction and into sustainable skills for living and parenting is a testament to the effectiveness of the PCAP model. We’re honored to celebrate with clients in their achievements as they become self-reliant through education.”

“When i think of PCAP, I think of freedom. I think of practical assistance. I think of believing in other people.” -Client