Ready to grow: Program connects families of young children with community resources |

Ready to grow: Program connects families of young children with community resources

Lorena Schoch is a specialist for Ready to Grow, a new county program in partnership with First 5 Nevada County. Ready to Grown connects parents to programs and services that support the well-being of children ages 0 to 5.
Photo submitted by Heather Heckler |

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Ready to Grow

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If there’s one thing Lorena Schoch understands, it’s that having a child can be an overwhelming new experience, even scary, especially if there is minimal support.

For more than 25 years, Schoch has devoted her life to working with families at risk. Starting out years ago as a teacher in Oakland, it became all too clear that many of her students’ families were in need of basic support and services.

She realized that many parents were not aware of the resources available to them, many of which were cost-free. Schoch also saw that many of her students could have benefited greatly from community resources years before they walked into a classroom for the first time. This changed the course of her career from working in the classroom to reaching out to families in need of support.

This explains why Schoch was considered the perfect candidate for the job of specialist for “Ready to Grow,” a new 211 program in partnership with First 5 Nevada County. Ready to Grow goes beyond 211’s mission of being a general information hub designed to connect Nevada County residents with community programs through a local call center and web page.

Ready to Grow connects parents, guardians and childcare providers to programs and services that support the health and well-being of children, specifically ages 0 to 5. In her new position, Schoch travels out into the community to meet with parents, childcare providers, churches and organizations that serve families.

“I want children to reach their highest potential,” said Schoch, who has her own blended family with children ages 25, 24, 15 and 10. “We know through research that the first five years of a child’s life is very important and the choices parents make can have a huge impact on the rest of their lives. Some parents just don’t have the basic information they need, such as the importance of socialization when it comes to emotional development.”

Through Ready to Grow, parents can connect to a wide range of resources, including lactation counseling, nutrition assistance, parenting classes, support groups, health care, child care, speech therapists, play groups and more. Many are cost-free. In addition, Schoch says that one of the more valuable components of Ready to Grow is “Ages & Stages,” an assessment tool used to determine a child’s strengths and identify areas where they may need extra support when it comes to their emotional and social development.

“Some parents don’t know how to reach out — they’re often scared and don’t know where to start,” said Schoch. “Many don’t have role models when it comes to parenting. Just because you have a baby doesn’t mean you’re supposed to know everything. I am not here to judge, I’m here to listen, support and find resources. Parents can share what they’re feeling and feel safe knowing it’s confidential. I tell mothers, ‘You may still be learning, but you’re the expert — you know your child.’ I’m a parent — we’re all learning. We all need the right support.”

The first phase of getting Ready to Grow off the ground was creating a database of all Nevada County resources available to families with children ages 5 and under. While that is mostly completed, Schoch is still eager to meet with organizations that serve this demographic to learn more about their services and share what Ready to Grow has to offer.

“It’s so rewarding to see families happy when I’ve connected them with the resources or help they need — they’re grateful,” said Schoch. “I try to be honest, compassionate and a good listener, and I think people find it easy to trust me. It’s important to let parents know they’re not alone — that there are people out there who really want to help. It just takes that one step. Call 2-1-1 and ask about Ready to Grow.”

To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at

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