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Program aims at preventing child abuse through helping stressed parents

Marty Irving // WSBT 22

Local police say it can prevent child abuse-- and it starts before a baby even leaves the crib.

Law enforcement is speaking out about the Healthy Families Program.

It's the Home Visiting Program, which pairs a trained caregiver with parents who are sometimes frustrated and need help.

Experts say this is a free program that is improving lives as early as possible.

"A mom will come up and call a child and say, ‘This is the Marty I talked about. This is the Marty who helped save my life when you were born because I didn't know what to do,’" said CAPS Family Support Specialist, Marty Irving.

Irving is invited into stranger's homes daily. She does the work of a seasoned caretaker, using her 20-years of experience, to help moms and dads keep kids safe as a Home Visitor.

"Our job is to go into those homes and try to help alleviate stress. Whatever it takes that that parent needs to find in the community or to learn about to prevent child abuse,” said Irving.

Federal dollars from Child and Parent Services, or CAPS, pay Marty. A Mary Poppins for new parents, she helps with everything from breast feeding to getting vaccinations.

"We have some dads who have sole custody of their children. And they really appreciate having us come in there and sit down with them,” she said.

Each parent volunteers for the program and all services are free.

Elkhart Police Chief Ed Windbigler says the benefits are priceless.

"We are hoping that we get better parents out of this,” said Chief Windbigler. “I've been here for over 30 years, some of the same families and then their children and then their grandchildren falling into the same paths.”

He serves on the nonprofit Council for a Strong America, which says home visits reduce child abuse by 50-percent.

The visits got the attention of Congresswoman Jackie Walorski, who met with parents in the program.

She says the programs are helping "Hoosier parents thrive and giving children the chance to achieve their full potential."

Walorski's office says the federal funding for the Home Visiting Program is up for reauthorization this Fall.

The congresswoman sits on the committee that will consider the reauthorization.

Abuse prevention experts say there are simple things every parent needs to know about keeping their children safe when they're stressed.

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