Ginger Roberts-Scott, Director of the Maine Women, Infant, and Children Supplemental Nutrition program, began her career as a licensed social worker working with individuals with intellectual disability and autism. Throughout her 32 years in a public health service career, Ginger has held several positions in the Maine Department of Health and Human Services helping children, senior citizens and people with disabilities access services, education and employment to gain self-sufficiency.
ED: How did you begin your career in early childhood?
My bachelor’s degree is in Human Services with a focus on intellectual disabilities and autism. I worked at the Maine State Medicaid office as the children’s and waiver services program manager and was responsible for making sure children received services to which they were entitled, especially early intervention services. Prior to that I determined eligibility for Medicaid services. In 2017, I moved to the Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) program after 26 years at Medicaid. Working at WIC in my current position is a continuation of advocating for children.
ED: What efforts have you been involved in to improve the quality of early childhood programs and services?
I serve as the program manager for the WIC program here in Maine WIC serves pregnant and breastfeeding women and children up to age 5. At Maine WIC, all our efforts are to improve children’s lives through delivery of high-quality services to our participants by providing healthy foods, nutrition education, referrals to services and breastfeeding support. WIC works closely with health care providers to ensure that women and children are up to date with immunizations and monitor growth together. WIC also has master’s Level dietitians and certified lactation consultants to assist families with nutrition and breastfeeding support. Foster parents, fathers and grandparents are encouraged to apply for children in their care. WIC assists people regardless of immigration status.
Did you know that in the 20th week, the pelvic girdle forms in developing fetuses? If a mother is not getting proper vitamin D and calcium, the pelvic girdle in the fetus doesn’t form properly although the child can walk and engage in everyday activities. This matters if it’s a female child. A defective pelvic girdle can cause difficulties during birth that result in birth accidents which can lead to disabilities, such as cerebral palsy. I have worked with people with congenital disabilities for a longtime but never really thought of it as preventable until I came to WIC. In some cases, proper nutrition can prevent birth accidents. So it really shows how important prevention is!
ED: What are some of the challenges you have experienced in your work and what strategies have you tried to overcome them?
In my previous position, as the children’s and waiver systems manager at Medicaid (known as MaineCare in Maine) I oversaw Early Preventive, Screening, Diagnostic and Treatments Services for children. A child under 21 is eligible for services that will prevent or ameliorate their developmental delay or their medical condition, such as glasses to improve vision, dental care for a cavity, or a developmental assessment to know if early intervention services are needed. Funding silos for children’s programs can be challenging, but through the knowledge about services from my work experience and self-education and investigation on funding requirements, I have been able to braid services for children so that they are able to access services that they require to support their development.
ED: What suggestions do you have for others interested in improving early childhood services and programs?
I would encourage others to learn about the importance of nutrition in developing fetuses and children’s brains and the role nutrition plays in the prevention of birth defects. I also want to encourage others to stay connected to the people who need and use the services. In Maine, we have 60 WIC clinics all over the state and serve over 17,000 people. Since we serve prenatal to five, we are a natural partner for Head Start and other early childhood systems. In Maine, we are working together with Head Start to serve all eligible participants. You truly are what you eat! WIC is here to help people learn to eat healthy foods for lifelong benefits for multiple generations.
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