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Caring for Kids Looks for Help

Deshawn colors during an activity at Caring for Kids

By Karen Knight

COURT HOUSE – Parents are their children’s first teachers, and Caring for Kids wants to make sure parents get it right.
According to Executive Director Debbie Brasch, the not-for-profit organization is working with 54 families in Cape May County on in-home parenting support that ranges from education and assistance with other agencies and resources to child health screenings and special needs support groups, to literacy resources, a diaper bank and a food pantry.
The services are free for the families, funded by private donations, sponsors, grants and organizations like United Way. However, Caring for Kids is always in need of help – donations, volunteers and interns – according to Brasch. She has been executive director for the past four years, having been involved since 2001.
“We do have a larger Hispanic population that we are serving, so we are looking for people who are bilingual for our staff,” she added.
There is no “typical” family who receives services from the agency, according to the executive director, and they range from “a college student who has had a baby and wants parenting help to a single parent who wants help or a family who utilizes the food pantry or diaper bank.” 
While “most” are low-income, Brasch said some are college graduates.
“We often get referrals from other agencies, but we also get a family member who asks for help themselves,” Brasch said. “In the last month, we had eight referrals, and three of them were families requesting services.” The agency can help up to 60 families at a time.
As part of the in-home parent education, Caring for Kids volunteers spend about an hour twice a month working with the family using a curriculum called Parents as Teachers. The curriculum is a home visitation program. The volunteers also assess the services needed by the family and will assist them in obtaining them. 
Brasch said volunteers cover topics such as breastfeeding for a new mother, assessment of child development, post-partum depression screening, keeping up with annual medical checkups and domestic violence screening. 
English as a Second Language classes are also being held twice monthly.
“Parents are their children’s first teachers, so it’s important that the parent(s) are healthy themselves,” Brasch said. “If a family is in crisis, we address that first.”
The organization also sponsors events throughout the year, including support groups, Breakfast with Santa, Thanksgiving baskets, Christmas gifts and other events. Brasch said Thanksgiving baskets are delivered to all their families, and a dinner is held at the Middle Township High School with support from three service clubs.
“Our busiest time of the year is between Thanksgiving and Christmas,” Brasch said. “We have about 100 families in the county who we help during Christmas time, and many of our local businesses or other organizations will adopt a family. Also, some of our local families will adopt a family to help during the holidays or donate toys. We can also use gently used items that we make available to our children so they can shop for holiday gifts for their parents during a Secret Santa workshop. 
“We are grateful for all the help we get, but we can always use more,” she added.
Help is needed now with donations of Huggies or Pampers for about 10 children who can’t use generic brand diapers, according to Brasch. 
Volunteers are always needed to help with children’s events, delivery during the holidays, or organizing the food bank once a month. Anyone interested in adopting a family for the Christmas holidays or helping in any way should contact the office in Court House at 609-675-5400 or caringforkidsnj@comcast.net. They can also reach Brasch at 609-408-5220. 
Thoughts about the story? Email kknight@cmcherald.com.

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