A local Vietnamese family needed help.

A local Vietnamese family needed help.

The young couple was new to parenthood, had not spent much time around newborns and spoke little English. The hospital nursing staff could not provide the kind of education and support the family sought. Four other babies had been born that week, and the nurses had limited time to help.

The head of nursing made a call to the McPherson Family Life Center and explained the situation. The family was only a day away from going home, and they needed someone to visit with them and to train them in basic infant care.

Within an hour, Susan Samba, a home visitor from  McPherson Family Life Center, arrived to assist the new parents. She brought materials with her that outlined basic knowledge of how to care for a newborn.

Instructions included how to bathe the child and when to introduce solid food. The material was written in both English and Vietnamese and included culture specific rituals. Samba spent a few hours with the family. Her counsel and advice allowed the new family to return home with confidence and peace of mind.

McPherson Family Life Center is in a small building on Kansas Avenue and employs four therapists.

Despite their limitations, staff members have served more than 400 clients throughout McPherson County.

“Tons of people drive by on Kansas all the time and have no idea what we are,” said Alana Murphy, executive director of  McPherson Family Life Center. “We get calls all the time thinking we’re a day care center, or this, or that or something else.”

The agency’s mission is to strengthen and improve the lives of families. They accomplish this through counseling, parent education and referrals.

The organization offers its services for individuals, couples and families. Therapists focus on methods of positive discipline and how to foster self-esteem in their child. Sessions are offered at a reduced rate, one-third the cost of a normal session, to help maximize the program’s accessibility.

The center also provides parenting classes and workshops for the community. The center partners with organizations, such as Circles of McPherson County, United Way of McPherson County and local churches in an effort to provide learning opportunities at low-to-no cost to participants.

As part of the mission to improve the strength of families by educating parents, the center created the Parent Link program in 2010.

“Parent Link isn’t geared for getting children ready to learn. It’s really geared toward getting kids ready to love,” Murphy said. “Parent Link has a social-emotional focus.”

The program is for first-time parents with children 0-12 months old. Home visitors work with the parents to teach them how to bond with their children, how a child can feel close to his or her parents and other practical aspects of child-rearing. The home visitors also help parents by offering emotional support.

Stay-at-home moms, single parents and families from all income levels have benefited from the Parent Link program.

“I’m so thankful that our program can be for anyone,” Murphy said.

Parent Link services are free. Thus, the program relies on donations from community members and grants from organizations, such as United Way of McPherson County or the Kansas Health Foundation.

It also draws funding from its annual fundraiser Biking Around McPherson for Families, which is also known as BAMFAM.

This year’s event took place Saturday.

“We try really hard not to do fundraisers just for the sake of raising funds,” Murphy said. “We want to do fundraisers that meet our mission. We want events that will help strengthen families.”

Another branch of service offered by the center is Family Life Link.

“The whole idea with Family Life Link is to empower parents, to let them know what resources are available to them,” Murphy said.

The service functions as a community directory of programs and agencies that address the needs of children ages 0-6. It provides access to a variety of support possibilities, from food or shelter needs to Medicaid-compatible physicians. The database is constantly updated to adjust the information to include new websites and phone numbers. The directory can be accessed online at www.familylifelink.org.

People interested in joining the center’s mission can help by attending events or by making donations, such as strollers, diapers, infant-sized clothing or other kinds of infant-care items.

Donors also may contribute cash or volunteer hours. Volunteers are needed for lawn care, assembling mailings, answering phones, managing BAMFAM and serving on the board of directors. For more information, call 620-241-6603.