Anthony sits down with Isabel Cobo, an Early Intervention Specialist and the Early Childhood Intervention Program Coordinator for Any Baby Can, an Austin-based nonprofit that offers parent education, family health, and child development programs.
El Buen Samaritano
Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics at Dell Children’s
Anthony DeGraw: Welcome to another episode of The Helpdesk hosted by Integris. My name is Anthony DeGraw, and today I have the special guests of Isabel Cobo from Any Baby Can out of Austin, Texas. Isabel is a bilingual early intervention specialist and,
Isabel Cobo: And also ,the early childhood intervention program coordinator.
Anthony DeGraw: Awesome. Isabel, thank you so much for joining us today on the podcast.
What is Any Baby Can?
Anthony DeGraw: I wanted to first get into kind of like, why are we doing this? And like, why are we here? And the answer is, one we’ve partnered with Any Baby Can for a few years now. And we have shared values across both of our organizations, specifically the value of people first and do the right thing.
We approach it from empower people through technology, whether that’s our own employees or that’s the customers and end users that we support so they can do their missions. And maybe you can touch on a little bit of an intro to Any Baby Can and that shared alignment that we all have.
Isabel Cobo: Sure. Yes. So Any Baby Can is a nonprofit organization and we work on strengthening family, and empowering families to help them succeed.
And so we work with the whole family, not just the child individually. We provide access to parent education, to family support services. There’s a whole bunch of different ways that we can help impact that family.
Because we strongly believe that even if you aren’t a parent, you have been a part of a family. When you think about community, everybody plays a role in that. Communities are made up of individuals, businesses, and families. And when we talk about supporting one person or one family where really it’s a ripple effect, so we’re really impacting the entire community. We’re all part of the same tree. It’s like branches, we’re all branches to that one tree. So we want to make sure that the whole community is thriving.
Anthony DeGraw: Absolutely. So a couple of the main areas that I wanted to go a little bit deeper with you on, not only myself, but also the broader audience can understand more of the impact you all are having and the direction that you guys are all going in.
But some of the areas we talked about beforehand were around family health, child development, and parent education. Maybe we can start like right at the top of that list of how you guys are impacting family health and how you think about that overall.
Isabel Cobo: Sure. The child is where we start in this agency, but the health of that child is based on being in a healthy environment. So we believe in looking at the family as a whole to help this particular child succeed.
Because if the foundation is not solid, then it’s going to be harder or more difficult to be successful. As that child grows up in relationships with others, work, health. We are committed to creating a community that empowers parents, prioritizes healthy families, and invest in that child’s development.
Anthony DeGraw: Yeah. I’ve always been interested in like, Any Baby Can specifically getting involved with a child, but then comprehensively looking at the whole family unit.
Effects of COVID in family support services
Anthony DeGraw: Some of the things we touched on and I’d like to get your thoughts on is like mental health within the family, physical health within the family, emotional health, you guys are looking at this holistically. How are you seeing, emotional, mental, and physical health affecting the community that you serve?
Isabel Cobo: Yeah, it’s been it’s been a rough past few years. Mental health was really impacted, emotional health was really impacted because people were very cut off from their support systems. People were very fearful, to be in society without getting sick or getting their loved ones sick. There is like, your whole sense of security and identity is shaken up. During that time, I think everybody’s was. Not being able to participate in the world and continuing to connect with your support systems and having those supportive relationships. And resource networks was huge for a lot of families.
We had to pivot so many people. We’re an organization that provides primarily in home services. We meet the families at their home and we provide therapies or counseling services or what have you, but since it was too risky to go in the home we started communicating virtually, so through Zoom. It was so important to really be able to connect with families and everybody was so vulnerable during that time, I feel like we’re still we’re still crawling out of the manhole, like what is all this happening? But yeah, I think it was so important for us to just meet our families where they were and understand that everybody’s human. We all need support in navigating challenges. And this was like, an unheard of challenge. Something that nobody had ever been up against.
Anthony DeGraw: Absolutely.
In terms of the child development, you touched on that and it pivoted, obviously over the last two years. But what does early intervention and the different connections and even potentially getting involved earlier within the child’s development life, still in the womb, let’s say, how have you guys handled all of that in terms of child development?
Isabel Cobo: We start serving children as young as, like you said, mothers who are pregnant. So we have different programs that serve mothers who are pregnant and help them navigate like the uncertainty of, you know, my body’s changing. The hormones are kicking in, all of the unknown’s and
Anthony DeGraw: The first trimester is,
Isabel Cobo: Yeah,
Anthony DeGraw: The first is rough, the second one is good. And then the third one, it goes off a cliff.
Isabel Cobo: Yes, exactly. And then it’s just like, go, go, go after that, you know?
Anthony DeGraw: Yeah.
Isabel Cobo: But yes we start that soon, and we know that early intervention is so important. It’s key, you know, the sooner, the better.
Young children develop in an environment of relationships, with the child’s community providing that vital relationship context for their learning and development. So it’s so important, especially during the early years when the foundations of brain architecture are being built. So from birth, positive, consistent, responsive, and secure relationships with others provide that supportive gross promoting environment for that child’s development and their wellbeing.
All of their outcomes are really built on that foundation. And I know and I’ve seen the impacts that this relationship that Any Baby Can build with these families has really helps to shape the success and changes the trajectory of that child’s life.
Critical steps in a child’s early years
Anthony DeGraw: Yeah. I’ve been watching a lot of TikTok, probably drowning in it a little too much. Probably not the greatest habit but there’s some really good content on there. And one of them was a doctor. I don’t know what type of doctor off the top of my head, but he was mentioning specifically you really only have a child for four years. And I think what he meant by that was the first four years of a child’s life and the development that happens, the environment they’re in, what they see and hear they’re really soaking a lot of that stuff in.
Even as a parent myself, I have a seven year old boy and a four year old girl. When I saw that video, especially my daughter being four I was like, oh my goodness. What did I get wrong? Or what should I have been doing? Right. And I think my wife and I provided her a pretty stable, comfortable, healthy environment.
But I wanted to get your opinion on that as somebody that’s in the field, actively working on this stuff, for new parents or even for the programs you put forward. What, in your opinion is critical within those first four years of life for that child?
Isabel Cobo: Yes. Parenting is a really hard challenge. For everybody. And the one common thread that we see is that parents want to give their child a life better than what they had, even if they had a good life.
Becoming a parent changes your life. You’re forced to change all areas of your life and it forces you to re-evaluate your own experiences, and see them newly through the eyes of your own child.
You’re going to have to navigate a lot of different obstacles. There’s this misconception that as a parent, you’re supposed to have it all figured out, but obviously that’s not true. Seek out your support, seek out those people that you feel you can trust, maybe the professionals in your community, like your doc, your pediatrician, your daycares, your schools. It’s part of nurturing that parent child relationship is really having the support of your whole community, to be honest. So all the little like meaningful interactions with your community can really amount to big improvements in your relationship with your child.
And a lot of people don’t seek out parent education, because there’s that misconception that you’re supposed to know what you’re doing. No.
Anthony DeGraw: Somebody gives me the book and you read the book and this is how it’s done. It’s not the real world.
Overcoming trauma as a parent
Anthony DeGraw: I wanted to ask you to, especially around the parent education, my gut says that there’s probably this potential of you may even be helping the parent through their own childhood potential trauma or things that is now coming to up in a different form as they were raising their child. Can you speak on that a little bit?
Isabel Cobo: Absolutely. Yes. That is very common. A lot of times people may not even know that what they experienced was trauma until there’s like triggers or different body reactions. The strange part about trauma is that you may be triggered and your body has a reaction to it. So you may be thinking, I’m just going to get through this. I’m going to tackle this. It’s going to be fine. But then your body starts to have all those stress hormones kick in.
A lot of times when that starts to happen is when people start to reach out for help. At Any Baby Can we have trauma-informed staff that can help families work through some of their own traumas and identify what may have been traumatic, so caregiver relationships can correct that and overcome that trauma.
And I don’t know if you’ve heard of like epigenetics where there’ve been studies done on DNA, where they see those impressions of trauma in genes carry down through families based on, what may have been experienced by your ancestors.
Yeah it’s pretty remarkable, but yes, I think it’s so important to really, to really look at mental health and how you can address it. And that way you can nurture your own relationships then, and feel more equipped to have strategies to overcome difficult times in your life, especially as a parent.
Overall community impact of Any Baby Can
Anthony DeGraw: Absolutely. So, yeah, I was going to switch it up a little bit talking about the families and the children, and you mentioned a few times in the intro about community. Clearly, there’s a focus on the overall community impact of you all executing on your mission.
Can you go a little bit further on there for us?
Isabel Cobo: Sure. We’re constantly trying to find ways with other agencies, how we can empower families in our community through whatever hardships they may be facing.
So, recently, I don’t know if you have, you may have heard of the formula shortage going on. So that’s, recently Any Baby Can partnered with El Buen Samaritano to try to help get some formula to the families that we serve. And I know it’s been such a stressful thing for so many families.
I can’t even, it’s hard to imagine, if you have an infant who needs formula, and you’re not able to find it. That is a, that’s a huge obstacle. Another thing that we did during the pandemic when there was a lot of food insecurity and also when people’s supports were cut off. So children were at home and they weren’t able to connect with friends and stuff. So Any Baby Can was able to partner to get food boxes delivered to families or they could come pick them up. And we’ve also partnered with El Buen Samaritano, they’re a fantastic organization in our community as well.
Anthony DeGraw: Awesome.
Isabel Cobo: Yeah. I can mention others if you want.
Anthony DeGraw: Yeah. Let’s do it. We’ll link to all of them in the show notes to give them awesome credit here.
Isabel Cobo: Okay. Yes. Also another wonderful resource that we work with is the Developmental And Behavioral Pediatrics Group at Dell Children.
So we do have a lot of children that we see who come in with red flags for autism and parents don’t know what to do. Hey, my child is not developing typically. I’ve never experienced this before with my other child. How do I address this? Where do I turn?
So one of the developmental pediatricians actually that their whole group has a partnership with our early childhood intervention program to give priority to the children that come in that we see, that need to be referred. So that they can access whatever therapies and resources that they need to.
Common scenarios for reaching out
Anthony DeGraw: That’s awesome. So for the audience listening, whether it’s themselves or it’s somebody that they know, what are some of the common triggering events that happened that caused folks to reach out to all of you? What should people be aware of if these types of things are happening, this is when you, when Any Baby Can and, or their partners can really make a difference.
Isabel Cobo: So at Any Baby Can we have so many different programs. A lot of the families that we do see come through is when their children are not developing typically. They reach out to us to see, how they can access resources to help those children and to help them help their own children.
If you ever run across a family who is talking to you about my child is not, I see there’s something different or something that is confusing. I don’t know if I should talk to my pediatrician or if I should wait, don’t wait.
It’s always good to just reach out trust your own parent intuition, you know, don’t ignore it. And a lot of times too you go to your local doctor and they may say, oh, let’s give them some time, but I’ve seen that too. And I always tell the families that I serve. If you have a concern that’s valid and you need to talk to someone, so reach out we’re always ready to listen and help you figure out, how you can help your own child. Those are the things that I would like to stress for families out there.
Is there anything else, too? I feel like sometimes I don’t have the right questions to get it out, but anything else that in Isabel’s world or your colleagues world of like, I wish people just knew this, or I wish, like you mentioned, I wish they came to us sooner and they didn’t listen to that advice maybe that another family member gave them that was completely incorrect. Is there any of that kind of stuff out there that you guys wish you’re like, I wish we could get in front of this.
Yeah. I would really say, you know your child best. You’re with your child. Day-in and day-out 24 hours a day, seven days a week, you know, you know, all of the nuances.
And so please just trust your intuition and don’t ignore it all. Like I said, the sooner, the better. If we don’t have a resource, we have staff that are well equipped to refer you to the correct resource in the community.
It’s just an important piece of the whole puzzle to really make sure that parents are heard.
Getting involved with Any Baby Can
Anthony DeGraw: Yeah, absolutely. In terms of either individuals or corporations like Integris, how can we get involved? How can we add to the mission, provide value to the consumers of Any Baby Can or Any Baby Can itself.
Isabel Cobo: I, you guys do provide so much value to us. I don’t know how many times you have helped us try to figure out, you know, all of the technological issues that you’re always so patient and doing it. It can be a little frazzling, you know, but it’s good to have you guys on board with us. Another way I would say would be, if you want to get out and volunteer, we have volunteer opportunities at Any Baby Can. So that would be great.
Another way is, in your normal relationships in your life, if you hear about somebody that could potentially use our resources, then please connect to them to us. We’re always happy to help. And I think that’s the best way.
And then I feel, it’s a ripple effect. So the more people that receive this help and learn different strategies, it’s our hope that they will pay it forward. Continue that positive change within the whole community. So that the whole community succeeds, not just, you know, an individual.
Anthony DeGraw: Absolutely. You know, um, being a corporate partner, obviously fundraising, volunteering time, getting involved, a phenomenal organization, and Isabel, I really appreciate you coming on and sharing what you all are doing every single day to better our communities. To continue to fight the fight, even through the last about two years of this pandemic, that is unprecedented for all of us right now and continuing to serve to those parents, the children, and the community overall. We appreciate you.
Isabel Cobo: Thank you so so much. It was great meeting with you today.
Anthony DeGraw: Absolutely. Have a great day, Isabel. Thank you for coming on.
Isabel Cobo: Of course. Bye!