December 1994 // Volume 32 // Number 4 // Ideas at Work // 4IAW1

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Baby's First Wish: A Successful Monthly Newsletter

"Baby's First Wish" is an age-paced parenting newsletter that fits the criteria for county Extension programming while also targeting the needs of an at-risk population. In one year, the program has reached parents in almost every county in New Mexico by using efficient agent training techniques and a "user friendly" format. Achieving success in this program renewed a sense of hope in the system's ability to accomplish its goals with the limited resources available in the 90s.

Diana S. DelCampo
Child Development and Family Life Specialist
Internet address:

Wendy V. Hamilton
4-H/Youth Development Specialist

Cooperative Extension Service
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, New Mexico

Baby's First Wish is a month-by-month newsletter for parents of new babies and is patterned after similar successful newsletter programs in Nevada, California, and other states. The program allows Extension to reach audiences in an efficient manner. The strength of New Mexico's program and other states' programs is the timeliness of its inception and the way it was transferred to the counties.

Baby's First Wish was introduced to New Mexico Cooperative Extension just after the system had experienced significant downsizing and spiraling budget deficits. With fewer personnel and less funding, it seemed almost impossible to get a statewide program off the ground. Morale was low and it was difficult for state specialists to get county agents to buy into programs that took time and energy that the agent did not have. Baby's First Wish answered the need for efficient, quality programming at a time when state and county staff felt less than hopeful.

The newsletter program met the criteria for county programming: supplying low input with quality output and reaching an at risk target audience with a finite number of participants (parents of newborns). Because county agents routinely collaborate with other agencies, acquiring mailing list names takes a minimal amount of time. Once the county offices are equipped with the computer label program and newsletter supplies, the program is easy to deliver.

The newsletter program is also efficient in terms of time and money spent on agent training. A training package which includes such items as an orientation video; volunteer job description; computer label instructions; public display board materials; built-in evaluation tool; written and audiotaped publicity and marketing materials; and strategies for acquiring clientele names is mailed to the agent. Subsequent telephone conference calls replaced traditional on-site training. This type of training allowed agents to remain in the county and to troubleshoot with their peers. County agents particularly appreciated not having to leave their daily county duties to start a new program.

The Baby's First Wish program was timely and efficient. In 12 months (August, 1993, to August, 1994), county Extension offices moved from reaching zero parents of babies to reaching about 3,000 New Mexican Families. This feeling of accomplishment has renewed a sense of worth for statewide programming.

In the '90s, Extension is being asked to do more with less. Resources and personnel are in short supply. To meet that challenge, New Mexico is forging ahead by using technology, time and energy management techniques, and sheer determination to use what they have to go a long way.