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WUSF's coverage of Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa on Feb. 7, 2021.

NFL Assists Program That Offers Families Guidance During A Baby’s First 1,000 Days

baby's hand holds adult finger
deng qiufeng/Getty Images/iStockphoto
The First Thousand Days is a pilot program that will aid families with parental guidance and resources.

The Tampa Bay Super Bowl LV Host Committee is teaming up with a number of local businesses and organizations to provide disadvantaged families with parenting guidance and assistance.

Beyond the Super Bowl game, and the parties and other festivities attached to it, the NFL tries to leave a legacy in the host city by assisting community groups and other non-profits.

One such effort announced by the Tampa Bay Super Bowl LV Host Committee leading up to the game is “The First 1000 Days.”

The Tampa Bay Pilot Program is inspired by the first 1,000 days of a child's life, which researchers say represents a significant window of development. In that time, a child develops a majority of their brain cells, building a foundation for language development.

The host committee is teaming up with Tampa General Hospital, Advent Health, Healthy Start Coalitions, the Early Learning Coalitions, Florida Blue, PNC Bank and United Way Suncoast to launch this initiative.

This pilot program is one of the “pillars” of the host committee’s Forever 55 legacy program.

It will provide 20 disadvantaged families in the Hillsborough, Pasco, and Pinellas counties with what they call “critical parenting guidance.”

Mary Jo Plews is the executive director of the Healthy Start Coalition of Pinellas County.

“The project will address areas like child development, early learning, family care, (and) making sure everybody in the home has insurance and a medical home,” said Plews. “The overall goal is really to make sure that we connect families to the services that they need, and support them throughout that first 1000 days of their baby's life.”

The families will receive an iPad pre-programmed with information from family support agencies, resources for parent/child engagement, and a three year subscription to an eBook service for age-appropriate books.

The program also pairs families with a navigator who will provide resources to fit their needs.

“Healthy start navigators will provide three years of support, information, access to needed services, and just overall information and education about the importance of early childhood learning, health and safety, parenting and bonding and making sure that those families feel competent in their parenting,” said Plews.

“We really want to focus on those families that are in need, that for one reason or another, can't or aren't receiving other services,” she added. “Our goal would be to support them and make sure that they get the services they need.”

Healthy Start program organizers are selecting families based on an infant risk screening that is completed when the baby is born.

Plews said they hope the program will continue after the first three years and expand to more families in the community -- if funding is available.

Leali Shalabi is a WUSF/ USF Zimmerman School digital news intern for the spring of 2021.
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