Fussy Baby program brings peace to household

Stephanie gives her son DeMario a hug.

Stephanie gives her son DeMario a hug.

Stephanie will never forget when her husband went away for four nights and she was alone with her four young children. Her 15-month-old adopted son, DeMario, refused to do what she asked, screamed, kicked his crib, and banged his head against a wall. She was so scared he would hurt himself.

Oakland Family Services helped my son feel better, gave me the tools to be a more effective parent and improved the future for us, as mom and son.

The little boy's anger dragged on for hours. He fell asleep from exhaustion, woke back up and then started crying all over again.

"At one point in the night, I picked him up, held him, and we both just cried ... but for very different reasons," she recalled.

DeMario's anger and aggression was happening frequently. Stephanie didn't feel like she could handle it and was placed on a waiting list for Oakland Family Services' Fussy Baby program. DeMario was already receiving services from the agency's Early On program for a developmental delay caused by his mother's use of drugs while pregnant with him.

"DeMario's anger and aggression was always targeted at me," she said. "He would hit me, yell at me and cry a high-pitched, screaming cry. On the really bad days, I just prayed for his bedtime to come. I cried almost every night and felt like a failure as a mother."

Things changed for Stephanie and her family, though, after beginning Fussy Baby, a program that provides an infant family specialist who meets with families at their home weekly or bi-weekly to come up with strategies that will comfort the child and reduce stress for both the baby and parents. Stephanie said her specialist, Pam, provided her with suggestions for one-on-one time, where Stephanie would let DeMario make every decision regarding their play together. Pam also helped her understand what was motivating her son's behavior.

"She showed me how to help him soothe himself," Stephanie said. "She recommended resources for me to learn and guided me through them. I talked everything through with her and called those times our little counseling sessions. She was calm, she was reassuring, she was kind. There was so much support and I knew she would help me, and I could call her at any time. I never felt alone."

Stephanie knew the program worked when she finally was able to calm her son on her own. She describes her household as peaceful now.

"I am so thankful to Oakland Family Services for the help we received during this trying time in our lives," she said. "If I hadn't had the agency's help, and Pam walking through this with me, I don't think we would have seen any improvement fast. My family and I would have wasted a lot of quality time together just struggling through it. But instead, Oakland Family Services helped my son feel better, gave me the tools to be a more effective parent and improved the future for us, as mom and son."