Teen Outreach Pregnancy Services (TOPS) is not just for teens. For seven years and counting, TOPS has been helping families through education and family-sustaining resources. Since TOPS was founded in August 2011, the organization has served more than 500 families throughout Gila County.
TOPS offers free parenting and healthy pregnancy classes that are open to all parents and parents-to-be. The organization also assists parents to find work and further their education. TOPS partners with other programs for young parents to help them find employment or obtain training that will make them more employable.
The best time for parents to start preparing their child for school is during pregnancy and at birth. So TOPS offers healthy pregnancy classes that teach mothers-to-be the importance of eating healthy and taking care of themselves during pregnancy.
TOPS’ four healthy pregnancy classes teach parents-to-be the benefits of eating right, exercising and continuing their pre-natal visits. If the parent or parents don’t already have an OB doctor, TOPS helps them find one.
Healthy pregnancy classes progress to child-birthing classes, where parents learn about delivery methods and medical procedures. Education is empowerment, and parents who know what birthing options are available – such as epidurals, natural births and cesarean births – are able to make informed decisions. TOPS works with March of Dimes literature and videos to teach young mothers the importance of waiting until their due date and not rushing delivery, because early delivery can greatly affect the child’s brain development, lungs and other organs.
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.
TOPS encourages parents to put down the “smart phone” and interact with their child every day for an hour or more. TOPS also assists and encourages parents to enroll their child in Early Head Start or Head Start.
Another free TOPS offering is developmental screenings. These tests, known as Arizona Standard of Quality tests or ASQ3 screenings, tell parents if their child is progressing adequately for their age.
One TOPS parent said, “It is a very helpful tool! If it wasn’t for the ASQ screening, I would have never known my son was struggling with communication and social interaction. I later found out through other tests and resources he has high-functioning autism. Now he is in programs to help him.”
TOPS provides free literature to inform parents what they can do to help their children achieve developmental milestones.
TOPS believes that everyone should be a contributor to their community. 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.
TOPS is funded by First Things First. The organization also raises money throughout the year through the Fry’s Community Rewards Program, an employment donation program and other events throughout Arizona.