Home » Health&Spirit » Car Seats to College: TOPS Classes Serve Parents of All Ages* Part 2

Car Seats to College: TOPS Classes Serve Parents of All Ages* Part 2

Teen Outreach Pregnancy Services (TOPS) is not just for teens – the organization offers classes and family-sustaining resources for all parents and parents-to-be throughout Gila County. Classes cover pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding and parenting. They are free and open to parents and parents-to-be of all ages. And TOPS’s services don’t stop there: the organizations also offers scholarships for GED testing and even college costs for parents.

Charlene Becker, a Certified Child Birth Educator at Cobre Valley Regional Medical Center, teaches all of TOPS’ classes. Charlene is also a Certified Lactation Educator able to educate young parents about breastfeeding. 

The best time for parents to start preparing their child for school is during pregnancy and at birth. So TOPS offers four healthy pregnancy classes that teach mothers-to-be the benefits of eating right, exercising and continuing their pre-natal visits. Healthy pregnancy classes progress to child-birthing classes, where parents learn about delivery methods and medical procedures.

Liz Mata and Charlene Becker. Courtesy Photo

By the end of the first eight classes during pregnancy, parents receive a free car seat, along with a class to teach them how to install and use the car seat.

Charlene Becker and Liz Mata are both certified car seat technicians, and they work with Chuck Turney at Gila Countys’ Health Department, to educate parents on car seat installation and safety. Parents also receive a Pack and Play, with instructions for setting it up so their child will have a safe place to sleep. 

TOPS’ parental support continues after the child is born, with breastfeeding education and parenting classes. 

TOPS’ parenting classes help families by giving parents the tools they need to become more interactive and present parents in their children’s lives. Parents learn how to prepare their child for school, from pregnancy to 5 years of age. They learn how to work with their child through play, how to establish routines, the importance of reading to their child and how to talk with their child to enhance communication.

One TOPS parent shared, “I went home and tried the praising technique with my two 6-year-old twins and 4-year-old son. He wouldn’t pick up his toys, and my twins were picking up theirs. I praised the twins for doing such a good job, and the next thing I know, my 4-year-old son started putting his toys away. I told him what a good job he did! It worked! I didn’t have to yell at him or argue with him about picking up his toys.” 

TOPS offers a total of 16 parenting classes, all free. Parents can bring their children and learn about the most up-to-date research on raising their children and getting them ready to start school.

And TOPS supports education for parents as well as their children. The organization provides scholarships for GED testing and even offers scholarships for parents who want to attend a trade school. TOPS has awarded five scholarships totaling $6,000 to parents who are continuing their education through college. 

As a good start for school readiness, Becker encourages parents to spend time with their children and give them the attention they need.

“Our society is ruled by smart phones and laptops and TV,” Becker says. “When used correctly, modern technology can help educate parents and children. But abusing it to the point where it takes precedence over your child is when it can result in an epidemic of neglected children who are being raised by modern technology. Children need human interaction, such as reading to your child and opening a book, and having that focused time.”

TOPS is funded by First Things First, and United Fund of Globe-Miami helps with the purchase of car seats and Pack and Plays. TOPS also raises money throughout the year through the Fry’s Community Rewards Program, an employment donation program and other events throughout Arizona.


Part 1: Teen Pregnancy Outreach Services: Not Just for Teens

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