Program helps parents
Patricia Nu-ez has a tough time getting around and needs help.
The 29-year-old South Lake Tahoe mother of five children has endured severe arthritis for 17 years and requires regular medical visits. The condition of her knee makes walking her young children to places a painful endeavor.
“When I take them to school, I get tired and my knees are swollen,” Nu-ez said.
Her husband, David Rodriquez, needs the family vehicle for his job.
Enter Rafael Elias, a community service worker for the South Lake Tahoe Women’s Center who makes one visit a week to the Nu-ezes’ household.
Elias transports Nu-ez to her appointments, offers child care and advice, brings food and diapers to the residence and helps her fill out medical insurance forms.
Elias even coaxed a doctor into donating an eye exam for Nu-ez, who is now sporting new glasses.
“I have learned more from her,” Elias said. “To me, it’s a relationship. I try to put myself in their shoes.”
He finds her love of family through life’s hard knocks an inspiration. The musician-turned-counselor relates to her experiences because of a few of his own, so he knows that clients like Nu-ez just need a bit of a break to make ends meet.
The Women’s Center has juggled 40 families since the home-visit program’s inception in October. The center receives a third of a $360,000 three-year grant managed by the El Dorado County Children and Families Commission. The agency also supplies funding to Tahoe Youth and Family Services, Sierra Recovery Center, Kindertown Preschool, El Dorado County Public Health, Jan’s Preschool and Day Care, Sally’s Playhouse and Tahoe Parent Nursery School.
Formed in 1999, the commission serves families with young children.
The commission reported that South Lake Tahoe — representing 7 percent of the population — needs this kind of intervention.
“If we can provide intense, immediate services now, we can eliminate many problems, frustrations or chances of child abuse,” commissioner member Joyce DeWitt said.
It’s one thing to offer services at an office. It’s quite another to make home visits.
“When you see families in the home environment, you see different things than if they come into an office,” DeWitt said.