● By Wendy Sipple
Photo by Dante Fontana
No one needs to be told that parenting is the most important job in the world; or the most difficult, the most rewarding, the most everything.
But despite the amount of literature, television programs and other avenues of readily available advice, parents still need support. The Placerville-based Infant Parent Center (IPC) was founded for this very reason.
The principle aim of the IPC, according to Ron Henke, licensed clinical social worker and agency director; Alison Gardey, licensed marriage and family therapist; Lynda Parker, reflective practice provider; and Jen Kalsbeek, marriage and family therapist intern, is “to provide a safe and nurturing environment where caregivers feel empowered and competent in their parenting role.” By viewing “parents as the experts” this group of professionals uses the strengths of the family as the foundation for treatment, providing mental health services to infants up to three years old, and support to expectant families and caregivers.
IPC contracts with several local organizations to provide low and no-cost services, and offers sliding scale rates for families that qualify. Despite the negative connotations some have of “sliding scale,” quality of service at IPC is never sacrificed. In fact, agency staff has worked under Director Ron Henke, the first child welfare worker in El Dorado County, for at least eight years. Henke has architected three notable children’s programs: WEE Care, a home and hospital visitation program, the Early Childhood Counseling Center, and now, IPC.
“Ideally, every community would have an agency dedicated to the emotional development of their children,” IPC staff says. “With the complexities of current times, more and more families have higher stress and fewer resources to maintain healthy living. Consequently, [we receive] many more referrals than originally anticipated.”
To service all referrals, IPC offers a comprehensive needs-based program. Services include infant-caregiver psychotherapy; prenatal support and preparation; certified infant massage; certified and evidence-based assessments and interventions; foster care and adoption transitions; interdisciplinary collaboration and consultation; bilingual services for those whose primary language is Spanish; home visitations and school observations, and anticipatory guidance for caregivers in preparation of reunification. The impetus of this program slate was created to normalize the difficulties of parenting and promote healthy infant development, which according to IPC staff, is the foundation necessary to help babies feel secure.
Although IPC has no events planned, you can support the organization by helping change the perception that seeking mental health services is somehow weak. “The idea that something is wrong with yourself or your baby can be troubling and cause higher levels of stress,” IPC staff explains. “This is why our agency emphasizes families’ strengths and normalizes [the difficulties] of all parents. We are here to listen and work with parents, not change them or pathologize their lives.
In addition to providing in-person counseling and services, IPC also offers a 24-hour phone line and a Web site for email communications. For more information, call 530-622-2899 or visit infantparentcenter.com.