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The "phenomenal" team at Children's Health Investment Program of Hampton Roads (CHIP) stands ready to help area families. The "phenomenal" team at Children's Health Investment Program of Hampton Roads (CHIP) stands ready to help area families. Photo by Kim Thorn
2022 Oct

CHIP: Helping Hands

If you’re a parent who needs help, CHIP stands ready.

Two in five children in Hampton Roads are living at or near the poverty level. One local non-profit organization called Children’s Health Investment Program of Hampton Roads (CHIP) aims to reduce that number to zero. By focusing on three key areas: health, school readiness, and self-sufficiency, CHIP offers preventative services to families with children up to age seven in Chesapeake, Portsmouth, Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Suffolk, Franklin, Surrey, Isle of Wight, Sussex County, Southampton County, Surry County.

“Everyone wants to be a good parent,” said Trish O ‘Brien, CEO of CHIP. “We give them the tools that they need to be the parents that they need to be. Many times they don’t have a role model to show them how to be a good parent, and we give them that tool.”

Let’s learn more about CHIP and how they are helping area families.

First 2,000 Days Lay Foundation

CHIP Home Visits Monitor Child Development

CHIP focuses on the first 2,000 days of life, which experts say lay the foundation for a child’s future health, academic, and workplace success. They strive to not only help children but also parents. CHIP starts by teaching parents about good health habits for both their children and themselves

Wendy Simon, CHIP’s Parent Educator Supervisor, oversees a team of parent educators and registered nurses who visit expectant mothers and continue going to the home until the child reaches the age of 7. “We visit them usually 2 times a month and try to help the parents understand their child’s development,” Wendy explained. “We monitor the child’s milestones and help the parent with encouraging self-sufficiency. We get them in touch with any social service or additional services that they may be eligible for and that may help them.”

Encouraging good health extends beyond physical health. It’s also important that children and their parents are socially and emotionally healthy as well. This is where CHIP provides additional educational services.

“We hope to teach parents that they are the primary teachers for their children,” said Wendy. “Our goal is to be proactive versus reactive. The work we do as a team is setting the stage for not only the children, but also for the parents.”

CHIP believes in the same education and support for their team members as well. After all, how can the team take care of these families if they are not looked after? “People who work in human services are very passionate about their work and are extremely nurturing,” Wendy said. “Our own well-being is just as important. It’s my job to not only supervise but to mentor, coach, answer questions, and address concerns, keeping the team motivated.”

CHIP’s excellent care of the families that they serve is reflected in the love and support that they give each other. It is certainly a big team effort. “We have a phenomenal team,” said Wendy. “We are very supportive, we are family, and families are our business.”

CHIP Lends a Hand in Unexpected Health Crisis

Autism Diagnosis Required Learning New Parenting Skills

One local mom needed CHIP’s services after an unexpected health crisis meant the loss of her leg. In January 2018, 36-year-old Benilde Lloyd had just delivered her third child after back-to-back pregnancies. A few weeks later she had a pain in her calf but didn’t think much of it. Three weeks later, she noticed her toes on the foot where she had the pain weeks before were turning purple. She decided to go to the doctor.

“I had had a heart attack and didn’t know it,” Benilde said. “I had heart surgery, and because my leg had a blood clot, I lost my leg. I came home the end of May 2018 and could not do anything.”

When Benilde became aware of CHIP through Child Protective Services, she reached out to them because she knew she needed help. “I was overwhelmed,” she recalled. “I wasn’t prepared.” She knew that she needed help with her children, as her two youngest were non-verbal.

“My two youngest ones were diagnosed with being on the spectrum of Autism. I knew it, but CHIP helped me to get them diagnosed and get the help they needed,” Benilde said. “If it wasn’t for CHIP walking me through this, my goals wouldn’t be where they are now.”

One of Benilde’s goals was to hear her kids say I love you. After much work and some time, her two youngest children, who were non-verbal, told her, ‘I love you.’ “It was the first sentence that they ever said,” she said.

CHIP also helped Benilde get all three of her children ready for school. “My son’s about to be too old to be in the program,” she continued. “He’s doing well. His first day of school he sits down and says all of his alphabet. He’s determined that if he’s going to say his alphabet, that he’s doing to do it right.”

“My 12-year-old just started middle school, and she’s enjoying it. She had a rough go of it in 2019 just starting 4th grade,” Benilde recalled. “We were homeless, and then COVID started. Fifth grade was a mess, too.”

CHIP Helps Parents with Mental Health Needs

Benilde Lloyd Gets a New Lease on Life

Not only does CHIP teach the families but they just as importantly show them. “With the home visits, seeing how professionals do it helped me,” said Benilde. “There was less melting down, [and] they taught me how to discipline children who are not verbal.”

CHIP also helped Benilde with her own mental health through thick and thin. “I stopped being depressed on a constant basis. It kept me on track. Even on my horrible days, it helped me.”

She remembers the challenges of the early days after her surgery. “I didn’t know how to live on my own. I was doing the bare minimum. My kids needed their mom, and I was in bed healing physically and mentally,” said Benilde. Eventually, she learned that she could take care of her family on her own.

Now she has new goals and decided that she didn’t want to give up on the things that she used to love. “I’m not letting losing my leg stop me!” said Benilde, who will soon get a prosthetic leg.

“I want to pick [my kids] up while I am in a standing position and walk holding them,” she said. “I always loved to dance, so I dance in the wheelchair. I spin my chair around and kick out my leg.”

Benilde has a new lease on life that she didn’t always have. “Even if [everything] seems to be bad in your life, with determination, you can have a better life,” she explained. “You can never change other people, but you can change yourself. I’m in a new relationship now. I’m in the process of getting on social media. I’m going to the gym now. I’m about to have an aide. I came out of the situation stronger than I thought I could ever be.”

CHIP Can Help Redesign Your Future

Non-Profit Seeks Donations & Sponsors for Rubber Duck Race

As a non-profit organization, CHIP only receives a small portion of their funding from the government. “A third of our budget is from the state and federal government. For every $1 that the state or feds give us, we raise $2 locally though local foundations and/or local donors,” Trish said.

The team thanks all of their donors profusely, but still need help. “We want to make the community aware of what’s going on and offer an opportunity to serve [you] in a way that you may not think about,” Trish continued. “We didn’t know where we were going to go with [Benilde]. She had so many obstacles, and she’s doing amazing.”

One of their most successful fundraisers is the Rubber Duck Race held each April. “Most people know me as the rubber duck lady. It’s funny when someone who knows me sees me in Harris Teeter and when they walk by me, they quack,” said Trish, laughing.

On a serious note, she said, “It’s amazing that you can help parents and their children redesign their future.”

If you’re interested in learning more about the CHIP program or how you can help, visit www.chipshr.org or call 757-543-9100.

Kim Thorn is a freelance writer who has written for the Chesapeake Post, Virginia Beach Sun, and Portsmouth Times. She lives in Chesapeake with her husband, daughter, and animals.

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