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Giving families a head start on parenting

Eben Harrell
Simon Perez comforts 2-year-old son Samuel while mom Luticia Hermosillo and Rodrigo Perez work on a crafts project in their El Jebel home. The family is a part of Eagle County's Head Start program. Aspen Times photo/Paul Conrad.
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On a Thursday evening in a trailer in El Jebel, Simon Perez and Luticia Hermosillo watch anxiously and with pride over their 2-year-old son Samuel. They have a visitor tonight, Early Head Start worker Lerena Delgado. She’s no stranger by now; it’s been three years of weekly visits.Delgado’s been dropping by since Luticia discovered she was pregnant. Together they’ve been through childbirth, feeding, diaper changing, first steps and first words. After all this, Simon and Luticia still dress for the occasion – starched suits in the summer heat.

Samuel is a shy boy. Today he has a little bit of a cough, his mother tells Delgado anxiously. Sometimes he garbles his words. Oh, and recently frightened by a dog.Delgado, baby-faced herself, remains quiet, watching mother and child interact. She breaks the silence only to reassure the mother in Spanish, who in turn reassures the child.”Don’t worry. It’s normal. He’s really a beautiful boy.”

In most cultures, particularly those where the Madonna is a figure of worship, hardly anyone is more admired, envied or fussed over than the pregnant or young mother. It’s not uncommon to find a gaggle of women, mothers themselves, tending to every possible need – advice, assistance, companionship – of the pregnant woman, as if the survival of the species depended on her, which in a sense it does.In Basalt and El Jebel, such a group of women is employed by Eagle County. Called Early Head Start, it’s an educational home-visiting program for pregnant women and families with children under 3 years old. Three women run the Basalt and El Jebel program, all of them mothers, all of them Latino. They currently make home visits to 14 young mothers, all of them also Latino, all of them living in what the federal government defines as poverty.

That definition of poverty is not generous. The guidelines make no adjustment for costs of living. For a family of three in the high-rent midvalley, the maximum gross annual income for an impoverished family is $15,617. The program is not limited to Latinos; in Eagle County’s larger Vail region, there are white mothers. But in the Basalt and El Jebel area, the statistics support what most people see – around here, the poor are usually recent Latino immigrants.


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