Growing Strong Families Since 1999

May 2012

Issue: The early years of a child’s life are critical for optimal development and provide the foundation for success in school and life. However, families that are at risk may lack the skills to encourage their children’s early learning.

Women with babyExtension Response: Growing Strong Families

Parents are their children’s first and most influential teachers. That’s why Iowa State University Extension and Outreach has been educating parents and supporting families in southern Iowa through the Growing Strong Families program since 1999. The program, which teaches parents about child development, nutrition, money management and health and safety, receives funding from Early Childhood Iowa.

Growing Strong Families is a comprehensive family experience for expectant parents as well as parents and caregivers of children from birth through age 5. Participation is voluntary in this program that features regular, on-going home visits from ISU Extension and Outreach parent educators, along with group meetings. The program is available in Adair, Fremont, Page, Taylor and Wayne counties.

Growing Strong Families also helps families connect with community resources, such as child care, health care or transportation, and build support networks. Those connections are important, because many of these families are at risk. In about 75 percent of the families that participate, the parents have a high school diploma, a general equivalency diploma or less education, and family income is at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

Women reading book to childImpact: Family Support Empowers Families

Growing Strong Families provides family support: the program builds on individual and family capabilities to strengthen parenting and overall family functioning. Families who participate learn how to improve their children’s health and wellbeing, how to function better as a family and how to connect within their community.

“Funding for this program allows the parent educator to visit families monthly, bringing them child development information, age-appropriate games and skill-building activities. The end result is a stronger family, a well-developed child and a child ready to enter school and succeed.”

- Heidi Lowthorp, Growing Strong Families parent educator, Fremont County

In a typical year the Growing Strong Families program serves approximately 230 families, reaching 350 children. Research data indicate

  • 82 percent of the families improved or maintained healthy family functioning, problem solving and communication
  • 91 percent of families increased their knowledge about child development and parenting
  • 97 percent of families increased or maintained social supports

In 2012 the Growing Strong Families program earned the Iowa Family Support Credential from the Iowa Department of Management and Public Health.

For more information about the Growing Strong Families Program, contact:
Kim Brantner, Families Program Specialist, 712-542-7076
Donna Donald, Family Life Program Specialist, 641-446-4723,