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Supporting a Child’s First 1,000 Days of Life

Cherokee can quickly list what she wants for her 2-year-old daughter, Arorah. She wants her to grow up in a stable home, feel financially secure and go to college. This is important to Cherokee because growing up, she didn’t experience those things.

Through Promise 1000, United Way of Greater Kansas City is connecting vulnerable families to services that help young children, from prenatal to age 3—the first 1,000 days of life. The program brings community agencies together for a home-visiting system that delivers services to families who most need them.

For Cherokee and her partner, Nick, the program is helping them do what is best for their daughter, despite some obstacles. Nick works in maintenance and Cherokee is a barista. They don’t make a lot of money, and only one of them can stay home to parent. When they found out about Promise 1000, they knew it would help them build a stronger foundation for Arorah.

“There is no such thing as a perfect parent, but there is such a thing as a better parent,” said Cherokee. “I want to be there for her. I don’t want to miss a thing.”

A collaborative initiative of United Way, Children’s Mercy Hospital, the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City (HCF) and area home-visiting programs, Promise 1000 is dedicated to improving maternal and newborn health; reducing the incidences of child maltreatment and intimate partner violence; and improving the economic self-reliance and safety of participating families. The program’s work is guided by scientific research confirming that a stimulating and nurturing environment is essential for optimal brain development, which in turn leads to school readiness and good health.

This year, the program received a two-year, $550,000 grant from HCF to help increase the number of families receiving home-visitation services. As parents, Nick and Cherokee have no role models to turn to for guidance, and they appreciate the fact that this comprehensive program is based on home visitation. “It happens on our time and in our house,” said Cherokee, who adds that available transportation can be a huge issue in getting resources if you’re struggling financially.

Nick says the home visitations can extend into areas of the family that might not seem directly related to parenting, such as job stress. However, solving issues helps him be a better parent, he explains. Thanks to Promise 1000, “we are stronger as a family, and we just do better.”