Child Abuse Prevention Services program becomes first dual-credentialed home visitation program in Iowa

T-R PHOTO BY SARA JORDAN-HEINTZ Child Abuse Prevention Service’s Building Healthy Families is the first home visitation program in Iowa to be credentialed through both Iowa Family Support and Parents as Teachers. Pictured is Child Development Specialist Elizabeth Castillo working with Lorena and Luis Gonzalez, whose daughter Evelyn, 1, benefits from the program. Their nephew Aron Medina looks on.

Child Abuse Prevention Services (CAPS) is a non-profit organization based in Marshalltown, serving children and their families in Marshall, Hardin and Tama counties. Its Building Healthy Families is the first home visitation program in Iowa to be credentialed through both the Iowa Family Support and Parents as Teachers.

A free program, families are visited one to two times per month by a child development specialist. Resources are provided starting at the prenatal stage, following the child to age three.

“When I come on the visits, we bring parent information regarding the development of the child,” Elizabeth Castillo, child development specialist said. “Usually with each topic we have an activity and we bring gifts. We work on language, gross motor skills, cognitive skills, etc. And as they get older, we get them ready for preschool. If there were any developmental delays, we try to target that as soon as we can by working with their pediatrician and share that information — finding other resources to help the families.”

The program has four direct support staff, three of which are bilingual with English and Spanish.

“We each have a caseload of around 30 families,” Castillo said.

The home visits use the Parents as Teachers model.

“We know Parents as Teachers is a quality, research-based curriculum, and it is provided world-wide, so we were interested in also meeting their quality of standards, since we were already credentialed through the Iowa Family Support, and have been the past five years,” Building Healthy Families Program Manager Esmeralda Monroy said. “A lot of their requirements do overlap.”

Monroy said CAPS submits annual reports of its work to be eligible for credentialing.

“We want to provide quality services that meet that set of standards, and that consider Marshalltown’s demographics and diverse needs,” she said.

Local couple Lorena and Luis Gonzalez are enrolled in the program, along with their 1-year-old daughter Evelyn. They were enrolled in the program with their first child, Emmanuel, and wanted to participate in it again when Lorena became pregnant with their youngest.

“You learn a lot (in this program) that you tend to forget about after each child,” Luis said through translation. “It’s nice to talk about the current milestones and what to focus on at each age.”

After Evelyn turns 3, the family would be eligible to enroll in other CAPS support programs, if desired.

“I really like the visits because the program is in my language (Spanish) and (Elizabeth) is able to come into my home, since I don’t drive,” Lorena said. “When you’re a parent, it is really hard to know everything, so it is nice to have that guidance. I encourage everyone to sign up for it because it has been very beneficial to my family.”

To qualify for Building Healthy Families participants need to reside in Marshall County; be at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines; one or both parents have to have a high school diploma or GED or less. Monroy said they do make exceptions.

“Twenty-five percent of participants don’t have to meet that criteria,” she said.

For more information, contact Chase at 641-752-1730 or emmac@capsonline.us.

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Contact Sara Jordan-Heintz at

641-753-6611 or

sjordan@timesrepublican.com