WIESBADEN, Germany - With family thousands of miles away and a new baby soon to come, Sara and James Rickards knew this situation called for some extraordinary help.

"I couldn't call grandma," said Sara. "My anxiety was getting really high … not having family easily reachable."

After hearing about the services of the New Parent Support Program through connections at work, James figured this was a resource he and his wife should give a try.

Once Sara got past the anxiety of allowing a stranger into their home, they set up a time for an NPSP home visitor to talk to them in their off-post residence.

"We don't inspect the house; that's not what we're there for," said Barbara Dudenhoeffer, NPSP home visitor, explaining that while the home visitor is "mandated" to report suspected incidents of abuse -- child or spousal -- that is not why they are in the homes offering free and confidential house calls. "We're harmless. We're just there to help them … understand the growth and development of their child and become great parents."

"I didn't know what to expect," said Sara. "She was there to give me any advice I asked for. We'd talk about anything."

"It was nice to have someone local we could call to get answers," said James.

And according to Sara and James, there were many questions regarding breastfeeding, when to introduce solid foods, teething, developmental issues, bodily functions and safe-proofing the home.

"I was very comfortable and relaxed," said Sara, who said it was especially "helpful for someone who has a lot of anxiety with new situations. It helped put a lot of my first-time parenting concerns to rest."

Though the Rickards took advantage primarily of home visits, the resource connected them to more services offered through the program.

While their daughter was still on the way, they attended Mommy and Daddy 101 to get an orientation of how things might go once she arrived.

Once Baby Rickards arrived, the support continued and Dudenhoeffer made Sara aware of other resources such as the Newborn Network and Breast Friends -- support groups facilitated by the program.

"It has shown me how important it is to ask questions and have support and interact with new moms and babies," said Sara.

And while Sara saw more face time with the program, James, a chief warrant officer 3 who is the 481st Military Police Detachment commander, lauded the program for its array of unbiased support and assistance.

"Regardless of the rank that's on your uniform, new parents have questions," he said. "It's a service that's open to any new parents. It's not just for the junior enlisted. This is a personal service where you know you are going to get answers."

The Rickards said they received such great support through the program and had formed such a strong bond with Dudenhoeffer that it truly took the place of the family network they longed for in the beginning. They recalled using the NPSP resource even while on leave back home visiting family. They first looked to family for advice, but nothing seemed to be working to remedy the matter, so they contacted "Barb."

"We automatically assumed our families were our best sources of information," said James, who said the feedback family members offered was a bit overwhelming at times. "We would get 10 different answers to one question. We were pleased with the NPSP's advice."

The primary purpose of New Parent Support Program is to conduct home visits to offer services for parents beginning in pregnancy to a child's fourth birthday, with the goal of promoting nurturing families. The program offers parent information as a means of strengthening the bond between parents and children.

Find more information at www.wiesbaden.army.mil/sites/mwr/FAP.asp, call mil 548-9218, 9219 or civ (0611) 143-548-9218, 9219.

Page last updated Wed June 4th, 2014 at 00:00