Group Helps Children Thrive by Five

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Early childhood education is the best way to prepare the next generation to succeed, and early intervention is key to identify any potential problems in a child's development.

Parents are a child's first teacher, and their involvement in their kids' initial schooling is critical to build a foundation for their formal education to come. But, for some, there are barriers. The need to work multiple jobs can sap time that would otherwise be spent with children. A teen mom may be still growing up herself and struggle to raise her child. Other may lack the know-how to prepare children for all the challenges they are sure to face.

For those who need help, there are ample resources available in the community. But many don't know where to turn or how to ask for the help they need. The Bristol Warren Thrive by Five group aims to point families who need help in the right direction.

"There are a lot of things going on in the community, but people don't know about them or where to find their services," said Donna Ramos, director of family development for East Bay Community Action and one of the founders of Thrive by Five. "Our idea is to be able to refer them to an agency where they can get the help they need so they can thrive by 5."

The group combines family service organizations from throughout the East Bay and around the state including such groups as the Bristol Warren Regional School District's Parents as Teachers organization, the Women's Resource Center, East Bay Community Action Program, the Parenting Support Group, and the East Bay Family Care Community Partnership, to name a few. Whether parents are seeking advice on early childhood education, screenings for developmental disabilities, or just need advice on raising a child, Thrive by Five aims to be a one-stop shop where families can go to seek whatever help they need, particularly where children are concerned.

"We're there for all families," said Emily Spence, program manager for Parents as Teachers and co-founder of Thrive by Five. "We're trying to reach everyone we can so all children are ready for school and families can deal with society and all its complexities. We help with the bumps in the road all parents face."

Community outreach is an important way for Thrive by Five to make its services known and available to the community. The group is planning its first major event to introduce itself to families that may not know its services exist — a Resource Fair at Hugh Cole Elementary School on April 12. Members of the group will be on hand from 9:30 a.m. to noon to answer parents' questions and point them toward the organization that can best meet whatever family needs they have.

The fair includes activities for all family members to enjoy while finding the resources they need. Kids can explore fire trucks scheduled to be on hand and watch a car excavation demonstration and an owl presentation by the Audubon Society. Bristol Police will be on hand to conduct child seat safety checks and teach parents how to properly install the seats. The Bristol Theatre Company will perform, and there will be yoga and Zoomba demonstrations, to go with face painting, fingerprinting and all kinds of kid-friendly activities.

"It's to bring families together," Ms. Spence said. "With all the fun stuff going on, we hope to bring people in, and hopefully, they'll walk away with all the information they need."

For more information on the Resource Fair scheduled for April 12, or to learn more about the services available through Thrive by Five members, contact Emily Spence at eps pence@cox.net or attend one of the group's meetings on the first Wednesday of every month at 9 a.m. at Rogers Free Library on Hope Street.

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.