As a young social worker and single mom, Megan Nickerson can appreciate the lives of the clients she counsels for the state's HANDS program in Harrison County.
It's her job to teach expectant and new parents how to create a healthy, safe home environment for young children. Not long ago, she was a client of HANDS, which stands for Health Access Nurturing Development Services. It is a state program administered through local health departments in Kentucky.
“I truly believe HANDS made me into a better, more educated mom," Megan says.
A native of Cynthiana, Megan was in college when her daughter, Jerah Nickerson, was born in 2013. She earned her bachelor's degree in social work at Northern Kentucky University in 2015.
Today she has 17 HANDS clients and does home visits with them, each lasting 30 minutes to an hour.
"Everyone needs some hands in their life.” Megan says.
HANDS gave her invaluable, science-based parenting education and training, she says. Particularly, she credited HANDS for convincing her of the benefits of breastfeeding and giving her the strength to finish her college degree on time as a single mom. She also had support from her family to finish while raising a young child.
The goal of HANDS is to motivate stressed clients -- often low-income, single parents -- to develop skills that nurture their infants and young children for early learning and healthy growth.
In addition, Megan makes hand-crafted artwork for the families she counsels. For example, every year around Halloween she uses ink to create hand and foot prints of the children on orange paper. The children often are fascinated by their colorful new ‘toys." Many families treasure the crafts as their child’s annual growth marks.
Megan says she has "lived, breathed and loved every second" of her HANDS work.