Oakland Family Services' early childhood programs give mom valuable resources

Reshma and her son, Nikhil, with Early Learning Communities Instructor Julie Lemay.

Reshma and her son, Nikhil, with Early Learning Communities Instructor Julie Lemay.

After Reshma gave birth to her son, Nikhil, in 2018, she was seeking resources. She wanted to learn more about being a new parent and about ways to help her son grow and develop, as he was small for his gestational age.

A librarian at the Royal Oak Public Library told her about Oakland Family Services’ Before 3 to Succeed early childhood imitative, which routes parents to both developmental screenings and helpful parenting information. Through Before 3 to Succeed, she was referred to Oakland Family Services’ Early On and Parents As Teachers programs and Parents Interacting with Infants and Toddlers (PIWI) playgroup.

PIWI is provided through Early Learning Communities, a program that offers free training, resources and support to anyone who cares for young children, birth through 8 years. It is funded by United Way for Southeastern Michigan.

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Each PIWI session features a child development topic, such as developing your child’s friendship skills or helping your child learn to deal with his or her emotions. The playgroup also allows families to get to know each other, which Reshma said was nice, as her family had relocated to Michigan from California.

PIWI gave Reshma and Nikhil 8-10 stations featuring activity-based learning. It also offered Reshma the ability to learn from educators and to ask questions, and provided valuable time for her to sit back and observe her son. Beyond being able to watch her son learning, growing and having confidence in his interactions with other children and adults, Reshma said the best thing about PIWI was having support as a new mom.

“I knew I had a place to come in and ask my questions to someone who can offer support,” she said. “And I knew it was someone with knowledge and experience. These were early childhood educators I was talking to.”

“PIWI is one of the best programs that I’ve seen as a new parent. I’ve gone to music classes, library story time, gym classes, mommy and baby yoga classes. You name it; I’ve tried it. I hope that PIWI is offered in every library, and it’s happening somewhere in Oakland County every single day. It’s such an incredible resource and program and is incredibly valuable for all new parents.”

Reshma said her involvement in the Early On and Parents As Teachers programs also has been beneficial to her.

“With the Early On program, we learned the developmental milestones with the Ages and Stages Questionnaire and also strategies to help our son’s development,” she said. “It gave us a new lens through which to view development, and it was fun observing and supporting his learning and development.”

“I thought Parents As Teachers was a really cool concept because we are all the first teachers for our kids. I like the fact that there is someone who comes to your home on a repeated basis with whom you build a relationship and who is trying to help you through the process of being a parent.”

Reshma said Oakland Family Services’ programs made a difference for her son and for her whole family, and she would recommend them to everyone.

“Oakland Family Services has a team of compassionate, experienced and knowledgeable professionals, especially in the area of early childhood development,” she said.

“They provide excellent programs, especially to help first-time parents feel more comfortable being a parent and to better understand their child.”