Baby Rhett sleeps peacefully in his new baby box. (Susan Riemer/Staff Photo)

Baby Rhett sleeps peacefully in his new baby box. (Susan Riemer/Staff Photo)

VYFS offers free, safe-sleeping baby boxes, support to island families with infants

Islanders who welcome an infant into their family this year can receive a free new baby box along with baby supplies and a list of community resources parents might find useful.

Vashon Youth & Family Services (VYFS) began the program recently to encourage safe sleeping and to connect families to the broader community, according to Mary Rose, the family advocate in charge of the baby box program. She stressed the program is for all families regardless of income level.

“This a program for all new parents,” she said. “It is about parental support at a critical time.”

The program is patterned after Finnish baby boxes, which have helped reduce sudden infant death syndrome and infant mortality in Finland for many years. The boxes, fitted with a mattress, serve as the baby’s bed for the first five to six months. Their contents from VYFS include a range of materials useful to the family and reflective of Vashon, Rose said, such as a $25 gift card from Thriftway, coupons for discounts or special offers from other island businesses, a Vashon onesie and parenting books — in English or Spanish — along with community resources and information on safe sleep.

“The program extends a hand of welcome and beautiful supplies to help parents know the Vashon community is here to support them,” Rose said.

The first baby box went to a family with a new baby last week. Talina Hoyle stopped by Family Place with her son Rhett, just a week and a half old. She had been doing research and learned about the baby boxes in Finland — and was trying to find one for her son, when she learned about the new program on Vashon.

“Safety first,” she said, cradling her newborn. “I would prefer to have the least amount of SIDS risk possible.”

Rose and Family Place Program Manager Chris Wood, encourage all families soon to give birth or to adopt a baby to get in touch with them. They expect to distribute 75 to 80 boxes this year and hope that many people reach out to them for one of the boxes and supplies.

The program is expected to cost $15,000 for the year, Rose said. Six thousand dollars of that sum came from a recent grant from Granny’s Attic and additional support from the Northwest Children’s Fund. Should islanders want to contribute, Rose said they could donate money or some of the specific, needed items to the effort. For example, Vashon Bookshop has the books for the boxes on its book club table; islanders could buy a copy, and bookstore staff would set it aside for the program. The same is true for Vashon onesies at the pharmacy.

VYFS has also applied to the county for $15,000 from the Best Starts for Kids money to create a robust home visiting program. That would expand on current services and provide a range of assistance, from checking on parents’ and infants’ wellbeing to conducting developmental screenings. The agency should learn this month whether or not it will receive the funding, Wood said.

For more information about the Baby Box program, contact Mary Rose at 206-463-5502 or Rose speaks English and Spanish.

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