How One Taos Pueblo Family is Benefiting from the Support of Tiwa Babies
When Kyle Lynn Martinez became pregnant with her daughter Rosslyn, she did not need to be convinced to join Tiwa Babies home visiting program.
“My mother was program coordinator before she moved on, so I always knew that I would want to be part of Tiwa Babies when it was my time to become a mother,” Kyle Lynn said.
Like many participants in the program offered to families of Taos Pueblo and Taos County, Kyle Lynn has a supportive family to turn to for support on raising Rosslyn, who is now a year and a half old. But she and her husband, Travis Snyder, value Family Support Specialist April Winters’ insights into Rosslyn’s development and the activities she provides for each stage of growth.
“As a first-time parent, you really don’t know how much their brains are developing, and where their development should be at that particular stage. So having a plan which they follow, being able to know that Rosslyn’s on track with her learning, where her capabilities are and continuing to grow are important,” Kyle Lynn said. “For me, I don’t have a word that can describe how appreciative I am for the program. I’ve learned a lot.”
The family looks forward to April’s biweekly visits, where she usually spends more time than the one hour allotted. Rosslyn has grown attached to April and enjoys visiting the home-like atmosphere of the Tiwa Babies office, where “you feel warm and welcomed.” Kyle Lynn describes the women at Tiwa Babies as “aunties to myself, relatives that I learn from. You can go to your mom, you can go to your grandmother, but having that means of support outside is very important.”
Tiwa Babies is one of the programs benefiting from Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) Foundation’s Early Childhood Pueblo Outreach Project, funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The program supported each of the Eight Northern Pueblo’s assessment of their early childhood services to identify gaps and develop Early Childhood Plans that defined their mission, vision, values, community priorities and a path to achieving their goals for early childhood education. LANL Foundation staff formed in-depth partnerships with Tribal leadership in Pueblo communities of Nambé, Ohkay Owingeh, Picuris, Pojoaque, San Ildefonso, Santa Clara, Taos and Tesuque and worked collaboratively with them to define and develop their plans.
Supporting the Entire Family
One aspect of the home visiting program is helping families set goals and achieve them, not only for the child but for the parents and for the family as a whole, making sure every member of the family is taking care of themselves. Those goals have ranged from helping Rosslyn through a challenging developmental stage to making sure Kyle Lynn did not fall into postpartum depression.
“I like how Tiwa Babies has something for each child. They don’t go to each house with the same thing, going with the same plan. They base it according to the child,” Kyle Lynn said. “If Rosslyn’s not able to do certain things, April will create activities for her, so that way she can be stronger in that particular area with her development.”
When it became apparent that Rosslyn learns a lot through song and music, April began incorporating more music into their visits. Music also opened an avenue for Travis to connect more with his daughter. Tiwa Babies involves the entire family, not just the mother and child.
“I like how she involves the fathers quite a bit. I don’t know why we have that stereotype of mother and child all the time, but she’s involved Travis in a lot of things, and tries to work with his work schedule so that our meetings coincide with his days off. She tries to get him involved as much as possible. It’s helping him interact with Rosslyn,” Kyle Lynn said.
Beyond Home Visits
Kyle Lynn has also drawn benefit from the parenting classes Tiwa Babies offers, ranging from topics such as infant massage and Love and Logic, an effective parenting approach that also teaches the child responsibility. She appreciates the way the program balances current practices for optimal child development with an approach that honors the culture of her Taos Pueblo culture, such as offering a pregnancy class based on traditional teachings. Sewing machines are even made available so mothers can make traditional clothing for their children.
“It was important having that insight into the culture of being pregnant, carrying the child, but also raising your child in a very strong community here at the Pueblo,” Kyle Lynn said. “Because culture is everything here for us as Pueblo people, we want to raise our children to grow up to be strong in traditional values.”
As a stay-at-home mother, Kyle Lynn also appreciates the social activities Tiwa Babies provides, such as a walking group for mothers.
“They go out of their way to find things to do for the mothers, especially since a lot of them stay at home with their children,” Kyle Lynn said. “Being able to get out and walk together and socialize, have the kids interact with one another, is really fun.”
Family Circles bring families with young children together to socialize and participate in activities such as classes on nutritional cooking or breastfeeding. Kyle Lynn sees the value of meeting and socializing with other parents, as well as the benefits for the children. The parents who participate in Tiwa Babies benefit from these supportive community gatherings.
“Having these available to the younger children helps them grow, so not only are they able to adapt at home, but they’re able to adapt to society,” Kyle Lynn said. “Because in our culture, we’re amongst a lot of people, whether it be a family or extended family. So my daughter is able to adapt and use those skills she’s learning, whether it’s speaking or being aware of what she can and can’t do, not only on an everyday basis but culturally as well.”
Kyle Lynn also acknowledges how Tiwa Babies works to connect families to resources they may need, whether that is WIC (Women, Infants and Children) assistance or providing diapers.
“If there are resources the family may not have available to them, they will go out of their way to find that,” KyleLynn said. Tiwa Babies plans to hire a family navigator this year who can assist in this.
April is also helping the family with Rosslyn’s transition into daycare. Tiwa Babies partners with Taos Pueblo Head Start to make the process as smooth as possible. April will provide Head Start with Rosslyn’s developmental scores, transfer paperwork and participate in the first Head Start home visit. Since Tiwa Babies is available to children 0 to 5 years old, April will continue to work with the family after Rosslyn enters the Head Start.
A Desire to See Other Families Benefit
Kyle Lynn expressed her gratitude for Tiwa Babies and her desire to see similar home visiting programs available to all Native communities.
“I’m really grateful for April and Tiwa Babies. I can’t express the amount of appreciation for her and the ladies there. I think it’s a great benefit, not only for the child but for the entire family,” Kyle Lynn said. “I wish more people would be open to coming and involving themselves in this, because I’ve learned so much. It’s a great support system, and I just hope for it to expand to where we can get all families involved in this program.
Written by Arin McKenna, Photos by Andrea Neal