Nurse-Family Partnership

Nurse-Family Partnership's mission is to empower first-time mothers living in poverty to successfully change their lives and the lives of their children through evidence-based nurse home visiting. The goals of the Nurse-Family Partnership program are: 1. Improve pregnancy outcomes by helping women engage in good preventive health practices, including thorough prenatal care from their healthcare providers, improving their diets, and reducing their use of cigarettes, alcohol and illegal substances; 2. Improve child health and development by helping parents provide responsible and competent care; and 3. Improve the economic self-sufficiency of the family by helping parents develop a vision fo...
Jan 7, 2014

Magic Window of Opportunity

"There is a magic window during pregnancy... it's a time when the desire to be a good mother - and raise a healthy, happy child - creates motivation to overcome incredible obstacles including poverty, instability or abuse with the help of a well-trained nurse." (David Olds, Ph.D., Founder, Nurse-Family Partnership)

Nurse-Family Partnership’s first stated goal is improved pregnancy outcomes: healthier mothers who can deliver healthier babies.

Nurse-Family Partnership is a program of prenatal and infancy home visiting for low-income, first-time mothers and their families. The nurses begin visiting their clients as early in pregnancy as possible, helping the mother-to-be make informed choices for herself and her baby. Nurses and moms discuss a wide range of issues that affect prenatal health — from smoking cessation, to healthy diets, to information on how to access proper healthcare professionals. It’s this trusted, expert guidance that has been proven to lead to healthier pregnancies.

Among the improvements in pregnancy outcomes that have been observed in the randomized, controlled trials of the program are:

  • Decreases in prenatal cigarette smoking
  • Fewer hypertensive disorders of pregnancy
  • Fewer closely-spaced subsequent pregnancies

Your support of Nurse-Family Partnership helps more moms in the United States to embrace this magic window of opportunity and improve both their lives and the lives of their children!  Please read the attached story to get a first-hand account of the impact your support makes!  Thank you!

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Oct 9, 2013

Helping Families with Economic Self-Sufficiency

Lum, Bless and Min
Lum, Bless and Min

One of the many things Nurse-Family Partnership, along with your support, helps families to think about and plan for is economic self-sufficiency.  The following story illustrates this as you learn about the amazing journey of a young refugee family just coming to the United States:

Lum was just beginning her new life in the United States when she found out she was pregnant. She and her boyfriend Min, both refugees from Burma, would have their first child together. It was another great challenge in their young lives.

“I felt so bad,” Lum said. “I didn’t know how I would continue my life. I needed school, and to continue working and I wanted a baby.”

Lum had fled Burma out of fear of the militant groups, and had lost her mom to a violent death in Burma. She was thankful to be in the United States, but she now had only her sister and brother as family to turn to in Des Moines as she and Min started their own family.

Then a local healthcare provider referred her to the Nurse-Family Partnership program at Visiting Nurse Services of Iowa.

“As refugees, we really need someone to be a guide for us. I didn’t know how to take care of a baby, and the culture in my home country is different than the culture in this country,” said Lum.

Because Lum spoke little English, Marcia’s first home visit with Lum was done through a Chin-speaking interpreter. Marcia saw a timid and reserved young woman. “We really needed my nurse Marcia,” said Lum. “She could see how I lived – what I needed. When Marcia comes to my home, I feel more comfortable for talking.”

Lum relied on Marcia to help her fill out her Medicaid enrollment forms, decipher mail from state agencies and call her doctor. Lum was lost in a new country without the knowledge of how to access resources. “I had to help her advocate for herself,” Marcia said.

“Because I didn’t have a parent in the U.S., I felt really lonely,” Lum continued. “I didn’t know anything about being a mother. Marcia was like my sister, parent and my wonderful teacher. I was so happy when I met with Marcia. I could ask her everything I needed. I asked her so many questions.”

As the home visits with Marcia continued, Lum stopped using the interpreter and practiced her English. And, she slowly opened up when Marcia asked one special question: what was Lum’s heart’s desire? Lum said she wanted to have her very own hair salon.

“It was my dream to have my own salon!” Lum recalled.  “I thought when I became pregnant maybe it’s too much to want my own salon. When I told Marcia, she convinced me that I could get my dream. She made me feel more comfortable.”

Marcia encouraged her to follow her dream by taking classes at the Iowa School of Beauty. 

“I saw many strengths in Lum,” Marcia said. “She was industrious and hardworking. And she had a desire to
succeed and the benefit of a wonderful support system.”

Lum was trying to do it all while being pregnant, and it wasn’t easy. She attended school for eight hours a day, and then would continue on to work evenings at a chain store until 11 p.m. Adding to her load, her pregnancy was making her nauseous and tired. As they watched her try to cope, her family and Min decided they would take on
additional responsibilities to help Lum concentrate on graduating and allow her to stop working.

She was determined to graduate from beauty school, but had her final few weeks of pregnancy to go. With her graduation planned just over a week before her due date, Lum knew timing was everything. She had to have a healthy, full-term pregnancy to be able to attend all the classes needed for graduation. With guidance from her nurse Marcia, support from her family and a bit of luck, Lum finished her classes before giving birth to a beautiful, healthy son.  Lum and Min named him Bless – for the blessing he adds to their lives.

Marcia says the Nurse-Family Partnership aims for three main goals for every client: healthy pregnancy and delivery, improved child health and development, and economic self-sufficiency. Lum is achieving all three.

“I’ve gotten to see her inner strengths grow and blossom as I’ve watched her evolve and transform into a strong, confident mom,” said Marcia.

“Marcia gives me strength,” Lum remarked. “She was my guide to become more powerful. Marcia is my light.”

As Bless approaches his second birthday, Lum no longer needs public support from WIC or Medicaid. With her partner Min to do the electrical wiring and her family and Marcia connecting her with resources, Lum has made her dream come true. She is now is the owner of The Amazing Beauty Salon. She even had the self-reliance to develop a business plan and to take out a small business loan. Lum’s salon is attracting customers and she has hired her first employee.

“The Nurse-Family Partnership program really helped her to be self-sufficient,” Marcia said. Just like the name of her
salon, Marcia describes Lum as truly amazing – an excellent mother and skilled business woman. No longer the shy
young woman Marcia first met, Lum now feels empowered to advocate for herself and go after what she wants.

Lum and Min are now expecting the birth of their second child. They feel ready to grow their family and they want
Bless to have a sibling companion in life. Lum says she now has the knowledge, thanks to Marcia, to be a confident mom.

When asked how her life has changed, Lum exclaimed, “I changed a lot. I know myself. I now feel comfortable with my life. Before I thought maybe I can’t get it. Now, I know I can get it and I did it!”

*********

Nurse-Family Partenership nurses are there with their clients to help them be the best parents they can be, the best advocates for themselves and their children, and to realize their own potential.  Your support helps make these important life steps possible and we thank you!

Bless, Min and Lum with their nurse Marcia
Bless, Min and Lum with their nurse Marcia

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Oct 8, 2013

Overcoming Addiction and Becoming a Great Mom!

Jessika, Lilly and Nurse Julie
Jessika, Lilly and Nurse Julie

Nurse-Family Partnership, along with your support, serves pregnant moms who are often seen as high-risk.  Following is a story about how one high-risk new mom has overcome the odds to be a loving and caring mom with impressive aspirations:

It was hard enough for Jessika to learn that she was pregnant at age 20. What made it even harder: Few others seemed to have faith in her ability to be a good mother.

“Friends thought I wouldn’t be able to do it,” she recalls. “They doubted I could be a good mom. My family fully supported me, but they thought I was going to need a lot of help.”

The reason: Jessika was a recovering heroin addict. Though clean for three years leading up to her pregnancy, she was still in a methadone treatment program.

“Everyone still thought of me as a junkie,” Jessika says. “It hurt my self esteem a lot. But it kind of pushed me to show everyone that I could do it.”

Jessika went to the Berrien County Health Department  in Benton Harbor, Michigan, to get a test confirming her pregnancy. While there, someone handed her a brochure for Berrien County’s Nurse-Family Partnership program. “It sounded like something that would help me,” Jessika says. “I didn’t have any experience with kids.”

Upon enrolling in the voluntary program, Jessika was paired with NFP Nurse Home Visitor Julie Sittig, a registered nurse with more than three decades of experience, the last five with NFP. Julie first visited Jessika when the young woman was 14 weeks pregnant, and Julie was immediately struck by Jessika’s determination.

“She was very engaging and well-spoken,” Julie recalls. “She expressed a desire right away to change her life. We hit it off, and I wanted to work with her — but I have to admit, I was worried her chances of success were slim.”

Julie felt this way for many reasons. Jessika was unemployed, and in addition to taking methadone she also smoked cigarettes. Making matters worse was Jessika’s tenuous relationship with the father of the baby, whom she moved in with after learning she was pregnant.

“I had been with him for three years, so it wasn’t some random guy,” Jessika says. “We tried to make it work, but he started cheating on me the minute I got pregnant. You can imagine what that did to my self esteem — the bigger I got, the more he cheated.”

“Jessika was looking for someone to help her through all this,” adds Julie. “She was missing that in her life.” It took Jessika a bit longer to realize it, though. After their first few visits together, the young mother-to-be briefly resisted seeing Julie again. “I almost wanted to stop, but my mom told me to keep doing it,” Jessika says. “After I had cancelled some visits, Julie said, ‘Give me a couple more appointments to change your mind’ — and I am so glad she did.”

From then on, it was full steam ahead for nurse home visitor and client. Jessika quickly reduced smoking and then quit altogether while pregnant. With Julie’s help, she applied for food stamps and other assistance programs, improved her diet, and began walking several times per week for exercise.  Jessika also took a keen interest
in prenatal health. “She realized all of it could have a potential impact on her baby,” Julie recalls. “She just changed everything — her baby and herself became the most important things in her life.”

Jessika soon realized how much Julie cared about her future, especially because of the young woman’s past.
“[Julie] was so worried about the drugs,” Jessika says. “She was always giving me books and having me read them out loud while I was pregnant, and telling me to keep busy. She never came out and said it, but I could  tell
she was worried about me relapsing. It was so nice to have someone who wanted me to stay clean.”

This strong bond with her NFP nurse also provided Jessika support during a physically difficult pregnancy. Jessika began having chronic vomiting spells — she now suspects it may have been due to the methadone — and
frequently visited the hospital to receive I.V.s of fluids to stay hydrated. Then, five weeks before her due date, Jessika went into labor quite suddenly and delivered a baby girl. She named her Lilliana, or Lilly for short.

Jessika’s past caught up with her once again. First, because the baby was born methadone-positive, the hospital was required to notify Child Protective Services (CPS). But thanks to the visible and active support of Julie and the methadone clinic, CPS officials closed their case quickly and Jessika never lost custody of Lilly.

“[Jessika] said she’d work with CPS to do whatever she could to be a good parent, and she has,” Julie says. “She is just awesome, and has made remarkable strides.”

Next, Jessika enlisted Julie’s support in helping her move out of the house she had been sharing with the baby’s
father. “He was verbally abusive, “Jessika says. “I know [Julie] wanted me to get out of there. She knew the environment at my parents’ house would be much better for Lilly, so I moved back home.”

Today, Lilly is nearly two, and 23-year-old Jessika will soon graduate from the NFP program. Her daughter is happy, healthy, and ahead of all her developmental milestones. Jessika recently got a job as a home health aide, and she is applying to college — she hopes to become a registered nurse herself someday. She donates time at her local church. Not only is she still clean; she’s also weaning off the methadone with the full support of the treatment clinic, her doctor, and Julie.

“I just want her to be happy,” Jessika says of her daughter. “I want to give her everything she wants. I never thought  I wanted to be a mom, and I know it sounds cheesy, but it is so gratifying. When you teach them something and they learn it, it’s incredible. It’s rewarding to know that I taught her — that I did that.”

“Her high is her daughter now,” Julie says. “That’s how she stays focused on Lilliana’s future, and what she can
be to her child. She loves her daughter so much. I think she’s going to do well.”

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Your support of Nurse-Family Partnership helps to make success stories like Jessika's possible.  Thank you.

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