Latina mom kissing a baby Infants cry. A lot. They have no other way to communicate, and no skills to calm themselves down. When they cry, they need the soothing presence of caretakers to help them manage their feelings. They calm by experiencing their caretaker’s voice tone and warm physical contact, being stroked and gently rocked, and having their physical needs attended to. From a developmental perspective, effective parenting of young children is a process of co-regulation.


According to Dr. Arielle Schwartz, co-regulation is where one person’s nervous system interacts with another person’s nervous system in a way that makes both people calmer and healthier. Neuroscience also shows that teens and adults who did not receive reliable, comforting care as young children are far more likely to have difficulty regulating their emotions in adulthood . Simply put, the ability to calm down is a skill people learn in infancy. By rocking, singing and soothing, a caretaker or parent teaches a child how to manage times of stress.

Among the many skills the ReadyKids Healthy Families program teaches new parents, co-regulation is among them. Healthy Families Support Workers visit weekly with new moms teaching them about healthy infant development and providing resources to decrease family stress. But what if the parent or caretaker is stressed? How can they soothe a baby if they are already overwhelmed before the baby starts crying?


Karolina with two children on her lap Maria Lopez-Carbajal, our Spanish-speaking Family Support Worker, notes that the immigrant families she works with face multiple stressors – leaving a dangerous home, dealing with uncertain immigration status, and fear of displacement.

“One mom I was working with was living in a neighborhood in El Salvador where murders were happening every night,” said Lopez-Carbajal. “They would wake up and a body would be outside her door. Her daughters were being threatened with kidnapping. Gangs are recruiting children to fight. No one was on the streets because it was too unsafe, there was no food for long stretches.”

The family decided to walk from El Salvador, traversing all of Mexico, to cross the border into the United States to declare asylum. Asylum cases sit in “limbo” for years, sometimes decades.

“The courts are so backed up,” said Lopez-Carbajal. “Out of the families I have on my caseload who are awaiting asylum, none of them have actually had their cases heard in court. Some have been waiting five or six years. It’s expensive. Lawyer fees and paper filing fees can be thousands of dollars. Immigration lawyers are all overbooked.”

Lopez-Carbajal sees how the daily stress and fear of immigration difficulties effect a Latina mother’s parenting.

“It’s hard because I’m there for child development, but the mom is overwhelmed with fear and can’t concentrate on anything else,” she said. “Parents are so afraid, they cannot focus on what their kids need.”


When this happens, Lopez-Carbajal does exactly what she’s helping the new moms learn to do with their babies. She co-regulates. She stops what she’s doing and soothes the mom’s emotions.

“I drop my plan and focus on their immediate needs,” said Lopez-Carbajal. “I provide them with resources about their rights or discuss their anxiety. We focus on what the child needs, and talk them through options to get what they need so they can help their child.”

By the time Lopez-Carbajal leaves, she has prepared the mom with resources and a sense of calm to co-regulate her own baby until the next weekly home visit.

The need for co-regulation continues throughout our lives. In times of crisis, the support and soothing presence of people who care about us help manage troublesome emotions. The small infant is totally reliant on caregivers and has many crises each day. But even adults need external soothing and support to get through periods of high stress. That’s what Family Support Workers like Maria do. Calm. Soothe. Co-regulate.

Read More

3 things mom actually wants for mother's day

Mother’s Day is on Sunday. This is your chance to show your Mom or partner how much you appreciate her work as a parent!

What gift or gesture can possibly show how much you appreciate her? Hint, probably not flowers. A recent survey from Retail Me Not, showed that only 28 percent of mothers wanted flowers. So what do moms want?

Lucky for you, our Family Support Workers from our Healthy Families program are offering their best advice. The Healthy Families program at ReadyKids fosters nurturing family relationships for pregnant moms and safe environments for young children. Last year they helped over 74 moms adjust to the role of motherhood.

In terms of experts on motherhood and child-rearing, they know their stuff! Here are their top three Mother’s Day gift suggestions from years of experience working with new moms.

  1. A meal they don’t have to shop for, make or clean up
    • “Moms all need a little down time, when they can be themselves without their mom hat on. Having a meal prepared for them is a wonderful gift. Extra points for cleaning up afterwards!” – Sharon Taylor
  2. Help with the Kids
    • “They want more help with the kids. Even watching the kids while she grocery shops can help a mom feel appreciated. It also helps you to know exactly how exhausting childcare is and to value her hard work.” – Becca Mays
  3. Time for self-care
    • “A day of self care! It doesn’t have to be expensive. Allow mom to take a walk around outside for a while by herself, or allow her to catch up on some much needed sleep.” – Samira Khairkawa

Looking for a tangible, last-minute Mother’s Day gift? You can always donate to ReadyKids in her name! A Mother’s Day donation comes with a free card and coloring sheet the kids can give mom, and helps reach other mothers in the Charlottesville area who might not otherwise have support.

This Mother’s Day our Family Support Workers gifted every mom in the Healthy Families program a gift bag of hand lotion, chap stick, nail polish, chocolate and a craft to do with their kids. We wanted to make sure that every Mom felt appreciated on Mother’s Day, even if there wasn’t someone in their life to celebrate them. ReadyKids can’t support these Moms without generous donations from people like you!

Read More

Afro-Latino family walking near beach Every family has strengths, and every family faces challenges. When you are under stress — the car breaks down, you or your partner lose a job, a child’s behavior is difficult, or even when the family is experiencing a positive change, such as moving into a new home — sometimes it takes a little extra help to get through the day.

Protective factors are the strengths and resources that families draw on when life gets difficult. Building on these strengths is a proven way to keep the family strong and enhance child well-being. What are your family’s protective factors? What can you do so that when inevitable stress happens, your family stays strong?

Research shows that there are six key protective factors that keep families afloat during stressful times. Here are some simple ways you can build these factors in your own family.

Protective Factor and What It MeansWhat You Can Do
Nurturing and Attachment: Our family shows how much we love each other- Take time at the end of each day to connect with your children with a hug, smile, a song, or a few minutes of listening and talking

- Find ways to engage your children while completing everyday tasks (meals, shopping, driving in the car). Talk about what you are doing, ask them questions, or play simple games (such as “I spy”).
Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development : I know parenting is part natural and part learned. I am always learning new things about raising children and what they can do at different ages. - Explore parenting questions with your family doctor, your child's teacher, family or friends

- Subscribe to a magazine, website, or online newsletter about child development

- Take a parenting class at a local community center, or Region Ten.

- Sit and observe what your child can and cannot do

- Share what you learn with anyone who cares for your child
Social Connections : I have friends, family, and neighbors who help out and provide emotional support.- Participate in neighborhood activities such as potluck dinners, street fairs, picnics or block parties

- Join a playgroup or online support group of parents with children at similar ages

- Find a faith community that welcomes and supports parents
Parental Resilience : I have courage during stress and the ability to bounce back from challenges.- Take quiet time to reenergize: take a bath, write, sing, laugh, play, drink a cup of tea

- Do some physical exercise: walk, stretch, do yoga, lift weights, dance

- Share your feelings with someone you trust

- Surround yourself with people who support you and make you feel good about yourself.
Concrete Supports for Parents: Our family can meet our day-to-day needs, including housing, food, health care, education and counseling. I know where to find help if I need it.- Make a list of people or places to call for support

- Ask the director of your child's school to host a Community Resource Night, so you (and other parents) can see what your community offers.
Social and Emotional Competence of Children: My children know they are loved, feel they belong, and are able to get along with others.- Provide regular routines, especially for young children. Make sure everyone who cares for your child is aware of your routines around mealtimes, naps, and bedtime.

- Talk with your children about how important feelings are.

- Teach and encourage children to solve problems in age-appropriate ways.

Our Family: Write down 3 or more things you would like to do this month to increase protective factors for your children or family.




You did it! Now share the things you would like to do this month with the rest of your family. Can you feel yourself growing stronger already?

Read More

Top 10 ReadyKids Moments of 2018

In our 97-year-history, each year at ReadyKids has been full of defining moments. 2018 is no exception. As we continue our day-to-day work with children and those who care for them, we also reflect on the accomplishments of the year. We feel so blessed to be a part of this wonderful community that has supported us over nearly a century!

Here are the ten fan favorite moments that you helped make happen at ReadyKids in 2018!

#10 – Helping Children Find Calm

Our STAR Kids educators visit local preschools and early childhood centers with puppets. Their child-friendly lessons teach self-regulation, problem-solving and safe choices. In February, a STAR Kids educator relayed this story. It’s about how a lesson gave a child the words to voice her home life.

#9 – ReadySteps, an Important Partner at Friendship Court and Beyond

ReadySteps encourages parents as a child’s first and best teacher. Through early learning playgroups within their home communities, parents get a chance to learn more about child development. Playgroups happen in five neighborhoods through out Charlottesville, including Friendship Court. ReadySteps works closely with parents to help children have strong, positive and nurturing relationships.

#8 – InsideOut Counseling Sneak Peek

InsideOut provides counseling to help kids and families who have experienced trauma begin the healing process. Shannon Noe, the program director for Youth Counseling, gives you a sneak peek into some of the stories our counselors hear from kids.

#7 – ReadyKids Reaches More Children, Families and Early Childhood Educators than Ever Before

In Fiscal Year 2018, ReadyKids reached 8,836 local kids, families and early childhood educators. Our participants are more diverse than ever. We also continue to lower the cost per participant, even while we increase participant satisfaction.

#6 – Aspen, the ReadyKids Therapy Dog, Wins the Red Cross Hero Award

Aspen is a black lab who has worked in over 200 therapy cases in InsideOut Counseling. Aspen provides a calming presence for kids who are exploring difficult topics. She is beloved not only among the children in our InsideOut program, but also by our staff!

#5 – Bilingual Book drive for ReadySteps and Healthy Families

ReadySteps and Healthy Families work with more than 175 participants who do not speak English as a first language. An important part of developing literacy skills is parents reading to their children. But, how can these parents do that in their native language? Many local donors gave to buy over 50 books in Dari, Farsi, and Spanish.

#4 – Charlottesville, A Year Later

The events of August 2017 in Charlottesville were deeply upsetting within our community. Our counseling staff offered ways to talk with and support children to cope with the difficult thoughts, emotions and behaviors the one-year anniversary might bring up.

#3 – Diaper Drive for Healthy Families

Throughout the year, donors like you have given thousands of diapers to our Healthy Families program. Healthy Families fosters nurturing family relationships for pregnant moms and safe environments for young children. No government benefits cover diapers. They are one of the top requests we get from families who are barely making ends meet. Thanks to you, if a new mom needs any size diaper, we can supply it for free!

#2 – Teen Counseling Crisis Line, A No-Cost Service for Charlottesville Area Families

In Fiscal Year 2018, 180 teens and parents called the ReadyKids Teen Counseling Crisis Hotline and over 3,500 people viewed information about the Hotline on Facebook. The ReadyKids Teen Counseling Program provides individual and family counseling to foster positive, nurturing family relationships to ensure that teens are healthy and safe.

#1 – Virginia lawmakers vote to require rear-facing car seats for kids 2 and under

In March, Virginia voted to join nine other states in requiring children under the age of 2 to be in rear-facing car seats. This came as a surprise to many participants and community members. It was the most shared story on our Facebook page this year. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children are 75% less likely to sustain serious injury in a rear-facing car seat.

What an eventful year it’s been! We can’t thank you enough for all you do to keep our programs running. We’re able to Open Doors to Bright Futures for Kids because of generous friends like you. We hope you continue to support ReadyKids in this new year!

Read More


Being a new mom is hard, but it doesn’t have to be with the right support.  The ReadyKids Healthy Families program fosters nurturing family relationships for pregnant moms and safe environments for young children.  The Family Support workers can answer questions, offer resources, or be a shoulder to cry on.

Combined, the Healthy Families three home visitors – Becca, Maria and Samira – are fluent in six languages and can support mothers who speak English, Spanish, Dari, Hindi, Farsi or Urdu.   Last year they served over 52 new mothers in the Charlottesville area.

Across these languages and cultures, one question emerges most frequently from the new moms they visit. Is my child getting enough to eat?  Newborn crying can mean a lot of things.  But, none plagues a new mother’s heart more than the worry that their child may be hungry.

Is My Baby Getting Enough to Eat?

“We get a lot of questions from new moms about eating,” said Maria Lopez-Carbajal, a Healthy Families Family Support Worker. “Whether the baby is breastfed or formula fed, they worry about how much is enough or too much. Especially if they are first time moms or if older generations are pushing them to feed solids early.”

The Healthy Families workers have training in newborn and early childhood development, which gives them the tools to answer a worried mom’s questions.

“We respond to these questions by talking about on demand feeding and recognizing the baby’s hunger cues,” said Becca Mays, another Healthy Families Support Worker. “If they are worried about whether the baby is getting enough to eat, we encourage them to count the number of wet and poopy diapers.  Output is a good indication of input.”

“A lot of what we do is normalizing a new mom’s feelings and worries,” said Samira Khairkhawa.

If you or someone you know could benefit from a Healthy Families home visitor, refer yourself to us through our online self referral system.  We would be happy to talk with you!

Read More

“When I first got pregnant, I was alone. I was completely alone. I didn’t have anybody to turn to. My family’s in New York, so I didn’t know what to do at the time. Through all that, ReadyKids was with me and helped me through that transition. And that helped him and helped us get on the same page to be the little family that we are today. So, really, everything has gone a whole 360 in nine months, which is kind of crazy thinking back at it now.”

“Through everything, ReadyKids was with me!”

– Audrey, Healthy Families Participant.

Did you know that the CDC estimates up to 20% of new moms suffer from postpartum depression?
Our Healthy Families program works closely with expecting and new moms to bring them the support they need in those early years.

We love nothing more than visiting chubby babies like little Charlotte. In fact, it’s what we do! Healthy Families is all about helping pregnant moms and parents of young kids develop healthy family relationships and a safe, enriching home environment. Our Family Support Workers are there to accompany moms like Audrey from before their babies are born, until their little ones head off to Kindergarten.

When Audrey learned she was pregnant, she wasn’t sure she could provide the stable environment her baby would need. Today, at over a year old, her baby is healthy and happy with a strong, stable environment. She’s developmentally right on target (not to mention adorable!)

We work with moms as they transition to motherhood, help them over hurdles, and accompany them through some of life’s most important milestones.

Read More