Sure, Nurse-Family Partnership is known as a maternal and child health program, and first-time mothers enroll in the program to receive nurse home visits. But we know how much fathers matter, too. That’s why Nurse-Family Partnership encourages expectant fathers to be involved in the nurse home visits, whenever possible.
Independent research makes the risks clear: children in father-absent homes are five times more likely to be poor, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And when fathers are present in a healthy home environment, good things happen: researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine found that low-income or high-risk children who have fathers in their lives learn better, have higher self-esteem, and show fewer signs of depression than children without fathers.
Nurse-Family Partnership can make a difference. Research published in JAMA® reports families in the program have a 46-percent increase in father presence in the household. It is just one of Nurse-Family Partnership’s positive, documented outcomes that come when first-time moms and dads learn to be competent, caring parents to their child.
Our goal is to help first-time parents succeed, so that the whole family is healthy and strong. Following is a story of just one of our many families who are working hard to succeed: Vickie Ghent has been a nurse for 30 years, including 10 years serving as a missionary in Papua New Guinea. Today, she works for the Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) in Dallas, Texas, helping low-income, first-time mothers cope with all the challenges of raising a baby. You might think that her work in Texas is a far cry from her experiences in the bush, but Vickie will be the first to tell you: nothing could have prepared her better.
In fact, Vickie feels particularly attuned to all the obstacles faced by low-income families in America today. They don’t have the time (or often the land) to grow their own food, so they have to buy it. They have to pay for transportation, because their daily tasks go well beyond the walking-distance boundaries of a small village. They must also pay for electricity, housing, health care and other basic needs. And all of this becomes even more complicated and expensive when they have another mouth to feed.
Antoinette, pregnant at 18, personifies the young women for whom these simple basics are truly obstacles, and she was one of Vickie’s earliest clients. When she discovered she was pregnant, Antoinette was scared and had few places to turn for help. Fortunately, she learned about the Nurse-Family Partnership from a visit to her local WIC (Women, Infants and Children) office, where she was introduced to Vickie for the first time. Antoinette’s timing could hardly have been more fortuitous: she was nearing the enrollment cut-off point for the local program.
For their first NFP visit, Vickie traveled to West Dallas where Antoinette was living with her mother, her younger brother and her aunt in low-income HUD housing. The home was cluttered and so dark inside that Vickie could barely see her paperwork in front of her. But Antoinette’s personality provided a light of its own, and she was full of questions and eager to learn.
Antoinette had just graduated from high school but still didn’t have a job. She expressed concern about her mother’s constant financial troubles. She suffered from asthma and asked how it might affect her pregnancy. She confessed to being terrified of needles and wanted to know how much labor would hurt. “She really needs help,” Vickie thought as she took detailed notes in her client file. Fortunately for Antoinette, the help she needed was exactly what NFP provides.
After a few weeks, Carles, Antoinette’s boyfriend and the baby’s father, began attending the sessions with Vickie. Skeptical at first, he quickly warmed to “Miss Vickie.” He shared the intimate details of his own childhood during NFP’s standard “life history” discussion. Carles was the youngest of 20 children his father had sired with various women. His mother was a drug addict who once sold Carles’ only pair of jeans for drugs. He told Vickie that he was worried about how to be a father because he didn’t have any role models. “I want to be there for my family,” he said.
Despite their positive attitudes and diligent attention to all of Vickie’s advice, Antoinette and Carles lurched from one crisis to another. Antoinette’s mother periodically threw her out of the house. Carles spent more than a few nights sleeping in his car. Antoinette had to give up the temp job she found because of frequent asthma attacks. And when the couple saved enough to buy a car, they drove it off the lot only to have it break down, leading to the first of many costly repairs.
Through it all, Vickie remained a constant, reassuring presence in their lives. Whenever Carles called to say, “Miss Vickie, I don’t know what to do,” she always had calming advice. She helped the couple find another car, brought them to the Medicaid office to get their health insurance sorted out, and scheduled some of their meetings at McDonald’s so Carles could use the free Internet access to look for jobs online. She even used her small discretionary NFP allowance to buy Carles a new pair of jeans. “Remember,” she would say as a visit was ending, “you can always call me and I’ll call back. Everything is going to be all right.”
When Antoinette and Carles’ son Carnell was born, he was a healthy 8-pound baby. Antoinette and Carles continued their meetings with Vickie where she would educate them on good parenting skills, monitored Carnell’s progress and continued to support the couple’s day-today well being. While Antoinette was a natural mother, Carles worried that Carnell didn’t seem to like him even though Carles adored his new son. He confessed to Vickie that he thought he was doing something wrong and even felt jealous of the closeness Antoinette enjoyed during breastfeeding.
Vickie discussed all of this openly with Carles. “Your feelings are perfectly normal,” she reassured him. “Be patient. The more you play with Carnell and interact with him, the more he’ll get used to you. And don’t worry,” she added with a laugh, “He’s going to like you one day, and one day after that, he’ll like you more than he likes his mother. He won’t leave you alone!” Beyond comforting Carles, Vickie taught him some of the basics of fatherhood like how to hold the baby, how to feed him, and how to change a diaper.
Two years and countless diapers later, Carles and Antoinette were ready to graduate from the NFP program. Vickie was tremendously proud of their progress. Antoinette was working as a receptionist at a nonprofit organization and Carles had a job at Wal-Mart. Antoinette’s mom had allowed Carles to move into their home, and the couple was planning a June wedding. Antoinette was enrolling in college to get her bachelor’s degree in science and Carles’ had set a goal to get his bachelor’s when Antoinette was finished. They had begun saving to move into a place of their own. Carnell was in a daycare program that he loved and where his teachers loved him, too. “Perhaps a little too much,” Carles told Vickie after the daycare staff sent Carnell home with candy – again.
Today, Antoinette and Carles have graduated from Nurse-Family Partnership, but remain in touch with Vickie. In fact, Antoinette recently recommended a friend to Vickie and the NFP program and occasionally “crashes” their appointments so she can catch up with her former nurse. Antoinette loves knowing that Vickie is still in her life – but she also knows that Vickie has given her and Carles the skills to persevere and succeed on their own.
Vickie admits she was worried about her clients at the beginning, but she never doubted they would succeed. One day, just before their graduation from NFP, Carles showed that he knew it too. “You know, Miss Vickie,” he told her, “We don’t have anything bad to tell you today. We’re doing okay! We can actually say we’re going to make it. We’re really going to make it.”
Mother's Day is something Nurse-Family Partnership celebrates more than 22,000 times every year - that's the numbers of moms and babies we are currently serving in 40 states across the country! We couldn't have that many celebrations without support from donors like you!
Here's the story of one of the many moms we have celebrated:
Tony is a sweet little two-year-old who recently became a big brother. His parents, Holly and Alan, are loving, attentive and well-prepared for the future. They know how to advocate for Tony’s needs, and where to get answers to parenting questions.
Not long ago, all of this was nothing more than a fantasy.
Before Tony was born, Holly was desperately seeking stability in her life. She had dropped out of school with only a ninth grade education and had moved too many times in recent years to count. At age 23, Holly returned to her hometown of Syracuse, New York because her mother was ill with cancer. Unable to find a suitable apartment with her mom, Holly temporarily moved in with some friends.
Nearly everyone in the house smoked cigarettes, including Holly. Her home life was characterized by frequent arguments and bouts of depression. She tried to find a better job than the one she had in the food service industry, but despite a strong work ethic, her lack of education was consistently a barrier to getting hired.
Then, on top of all this, one day Holly learned that she was pregnant. Her first reaction, as she later recalled: “I can use all the help I can get.”
Help soon arrived in the form of Ann Rogers, a Nurse-Family Partnership nurse home visitor. “Annie just showed up out of the blue one day, saying my doctor’s office had sent her to talk with me,” remembers Holly. As the women chatted about the free, voluntary program, Holly realized that enrolling in Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) could really help. Along with many years of experience as a registered nurse, Ann brought the comfort and reassurance that Holly needed to learn parenting skills and gain confidence in using them.
Holly immediately demonstrated a strong commitment to the program, and showed a great concern for her unborn baby’s physical health and well-being. So did Alan, Holly’s boyfriend and the father of the baby, who was determined to remain a part of Holly’s life. Ann began working with both parents-to-be on how to create a safe and nurturing environment for their new baby. Holly quit smoking while she was pregnant, and she and Alan moved into a two-bedroom apartment. Both of them made sure to keep the apartment clean and well-suited for a new baby to live and play.
“Holly was always really good at goal-setting, but she would often get caught up in the barriers that existed in her life, and feel stuck,” Ann recalls. “As her nurse, I often served as her cheerleader to help her get ‘unstuck.’ Now, she digs herself out of this mental rut much more quickly.”
While Holly had been self-sufficient from an early age, she now had to learn how to take care of someone else. Enter one of NFP’s goals: to help connect first-time moms with community resources that can help empower them as new mothers, such as job training and free or low-cost child health insurance. “Before I met Annie, I had never heard about any programs that could help me,” says Holly. “I didn’t know what to do, or who to talk to—but I do now.”
“I think one of the big things that Holly realized is, sometimes you need a little support from one person in order to get a lot of support from others,” Ann says.
Holly’s parenting skills were also a work in progress. “Holly had babysat before, and she knew about how to do certain tasks like diapering and feeding a baby, but she learned more about the ‘why’ for these things through NFP,” says Ann. “For example, Holly loves to play with Tony, but now she also understands that playing with her son has meaning for his future mental and physical development.”
The young mother soon realized that one of her favorite parts of the Nurse-Family Partnership program was the dependability of the regularly scheduled visits from Ann, and the ability to pick up the phone and call the nurse if an urgent concern arose. In other words, Ann’s presence in Holly’s life provided stability at a critical time. “I really remember the comfort of having that constant with Annie. If I had any questions, I knew she would come,” Holly says.
Ann worked with Holly and Alan to help them understand the natural development of their baby, and assuage the many fears that arise among new parents. For example, when Tony was still not sitting up at seven months, Holly grew concerned. Ann explained to her that children develop at different rates and that Tony was still well within the accepted range.
Sure enough, just over one month later, Tony was sitting up. At age 11 months, he was walking, and by his first birthday he was running. “Now, we can’t stop him from moving!” Holly says with a laugh.
For Holly and many moms like her, the Nurse-Family Partnership program was more than just learning the skills of how to be a successful parent. Holly and Ann shared a special bond that was reinforced when Holly’s mother lost her two-year battle against cancer, a little more than a year after Tony was born. Around the same time, Ann was also battling cancer, and had to stop working with Holly for about six months while she received treatment.
When Ann returned to work, Holly specifically requested that Ann be reassigned to her and Tony. Holly was still grieving after the loss of her mother, and it was her relationship with Ann that helped her process many of those feelings. “Holly is a very private person, but she trusted me and was willing to open up,” Ann says. “Our relationship allowed this to happen.”
Now, with the self-assurance that she gained from NFP, Holly has begun creating a brighter future for both herself and her family. Alan and Holly are still together; they have recently had a second child, Angelina, and the parents are already using many of the lessons they learned from Ann when Tony was born. Alan works full-time, and is very involved with caring for the children.
Holly has great passion for cooking and baking, and has hopes of becoming a pastry chef someday—but she also recognizes the shorter-term importance of formal education, and is taking steps toward obtaining her GED. Holly also wants to make sure that as her children grow older, they recognize the value of a good education. “I don’t want them to think it is okay to live their lives without going to school,” she says.
But perhaps the most important goal that Holly has set is to be there for Tony and Angelina.
“I don’t want to ever miss putting them to sleep at night,” Holly says. “I don’t want to ever miss helping them with whatever they need. I just want to make sure that I am a good role model for them both.”
This Nurse-Family Partnership program is implemented through the Onondaga County Health Department located in Syracuse, New York.
What would the world be like if young, at-risk moms received received guidance to get the right start?
Your generous contribution to Nurse-Family Partnership allows babies to be born healthier, kids to be better equiped to start school, families to learn how to be more economically self-sufficient and unhealthy cycles to be broken.
Nurse-Family Partnership has 30 years of evidence that all of this is really possible. Nurse-Family Partnership delivers unsupassed health, educational, and economic outcomes - which leave positive and lasting impacts on our communities. Here's a story showing how Nurse-Family Partnership does all of this.
At the tender age of 16, Sarah hears the news that has changed the lives of so many teenage women across America: she’s pregnant. And like so many others, Sarah doesn’t have to look far to see how much her world is about to change. Sarah was born to a teenage mom and has an older sister who gave birth to two children before she turned 20. So when Sarah hears the news, she wastes no time. She immediately visits her local health department in High Point, North Carolina, and signs up for a program for first-time teenage parents that she has heard about. From watching the daily struggles of her mother and sister, Sarah knows the Nurse-Family Partnership® (NFP) is exactly what she needs.
Sarah is matched with a nurse, Keisha Lucas, who will guide her through her pregnancy and the first two years of her baby’s life. For their first meeting, held at the house where Sarah lives with her mom, Keisha arrives carrying a thick binder in which she will track every stage of Sarah’s pregnancy and her baby’s development. Sarah is delighted to see the big notebook; she loves writing things down and checking things off, and the binder – which could seem large and imposing to some – appears to her as a personal diary of possibilities. The first visit resembles a doctor’s appointment, with lots of weighing, measuring and questions to be answered. Sarah is glad to have a knowledgeable nurse to work with, but more importantly, she is relieved that Keisha doesn’t judge her or her family. As Sarah describes to her friends, Keisha is just “really, really, really nice.”for any potential obstacles to a healthy pregnancy and successful motherhood. Keisha observes that Sarah’s mom is frequently at work in one of multiple jobs. She is concerned that Sarah’s sister’s two children—ages five and three—run rampant around the house each time she visits. Sarah is quick to praise her mom and sister for doing the best they can as single parents in a small town, but she admits to Keisha, somewhat hesitantly, “I want more for me.” Keisha knows that this desire for a better life is the spark of hope that she must fan into flame.track team, which she loves. Longer term, she wants to graduate from high school, continue on to college, become an elementary school teacher and have her own apartment. What may sound like modest goals to some are, of course, extremely challenging when you have an expanding belly, little money and even less support from the people around you. This means that another important component of Keisha’s job is to be Sarah’s cheerleader. As Sarah’s pregnancy progresses and she complains about being too tired to go to class, Keisha is always there to motivate her. “Remember that you want to be a good role model to your daughter,” she says frequently to keep Sarah going. a nearby university and dated for several years. He is supportive of the pregnancy and attends a handful of Sarah and Keisha’s meetings, but Sarah has concerns about the way he lives his life and ultimately realizes he cannot be counted on to play a significant role in her future plans. the phone when the teenager has nightmares that she is bleeding. She assures her that strange cravings are normal for pregnant women when Sarah calls her in a panic because of a scary craving for laundry detergent. Keisha is also the first person Sarah reaches out to when she develops a major pregnancy complication during her ninth month: a terribly itchy, chicken-pox-like rash all over her body.worsening PUPPPs condition. The doctors decide to induce labor.Nevaeh. The baby’s father is there, as are Sarah’s mother and sister. NFP nurses do not normally attend their clients’ births, but Sarah feels Keisha’s presence in the delivery room nonetheless. During the pain of her contractions, Sarah remembers the breathing exercises Keisha taught her. And when she hears Nevaeh cry for the first time, she feels a surge of gratitude for all she has learned about being a good mother to her child.her daughter.
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weight while running on the track team, is in her second year at Winston-Salem State University, Keisha’s alma mater. She is majoring in elementary education.
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Make a Mother's Day gift in 2012 in honor of your mother or another important woman in you life! Thank you for your support!
Keisha also has a sharp eye, trained by years of experiences in households just like Sarah’s. As she takes notes and answers Sarah’s questions in their first few meetings, Keisha also scans the environment, looking
Over the next few months, Keisha works with Sarah on personal goal setting, an important component of the NFP program. Sarah determines that her short-term goals are to stay in school and eventually rejoin the
Keisha also helps Sarah consider her relationship with the baby’s father. The two met while he was attending
Beyond supporting Sarah with personal goals and relationship issues, Keisha answers Sarah’s questions about the changes in her body. She comforts Sarah over
“Miss Keisha, I have broken out in this rash and I don’t know what it is!” Sarah exclaims over the phone.
Keisha asks a few questions and advises Sarah to go to her doctor immediately. The doctor diagnoses PUPPPs (Pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy), an uncomfortable but benign rash that disappears from the mother when the baby is born. Sarah is in terrible discomfort during the final weeks of her pregnancy, ultimately landing in the emergency room due to a
And then, after two long days of labor, the PUPPPs disappear when Sarah gives birth to her daughter,
When Keisha hears the good news about the successful delivery from Sarah, she beams with pride and shared joy, and recalls a conversation they had a few weeks earlier, when Sarah had shared the name she had decided to give
“Nevaeh is a beautiful name,” said Keisha. “How did you come up with it?”
Sarah beams as she replies, filled with expectation and a new sense of confidence thanks to the woman across from her. “It’s heaven spelled backward.”
Three years later, Sarah has graduated from the NFP program and Nevaeh is a healthy, happy three-year-old girl who always wears pink ribbons on her pigtails. Sarah, who graduated high school on time and lost her baby
Nurse-Family Partnership strives to give vulnerable, first-time moms the best start possible. Here is an example of how your support helps give these moms a good start:
As Holly Poole scans the file of her newest client, Nely, she looks carefully for any red flags. Drug use? The report says no. Drinking? Another no. Holly feels some relief, but when she scans further, she sees it: red flag number one. Newly pregnant Nely is just 14 years old.
Driving through the outskirts of Philadelphia to Nely’s home, Holly is concerned but optimistic. After seven years with Nurse-Family Partnership, she has a laser focus on goals for each young client: a healthy pregnancy and delivery, and development into a confident young woman with plans for her future.
Holly knows that guiding Nely through her pregnancy and the first two years of motherhood will be only part of her assignment. She must also acknowledge that Nely will deal with pressures about continuing her education, relationships with boys, self-image and a host of other issues relevant to young teens. Holly wonders how Nely will handle these issues while also facing the stresses of pregnancy and motherhood.
At this first meeting, Nely sits quietly at the kitchen table. She is young and looks it, with her hair pulled back into a ponytail. It is clear from her downcast eyes and silence that she is shy. Terrified may be a better word.
During their 90-minute introductory meeting, Holly does most of the talking, asking questions to get a fix on Nely’s health, family structure, relationships and interest in schoolwork.
Nely sits next to her mother, who works six days a week at a big-box store and had to request time off – no small thing – to attend this meeting. She was upset about the pregnancy at first, seeing it as another mouth to feed, but seems to have come around a bit. Nely has questions swirling in her head and Holly seems easy to talk to, so she decides she wants Holly to be her Nurse Home Visitor. Nely promises to abide by the program’s rules, such as “I will always call in advance to cancel any meetings I can’t attend.” Her relationship with Holly is now official.
Every other week, Holly and Nely meet for one hour, usually at the same kitchen table. In addition to discussing each stage of pregnancy, Holly focuses immediate attention on Nely’s plans, especially for her education. “What do you want to do after you have the baby?” Holly asks.
“He wants me to drop out of school,” Nely responds, talking about her boyfriend, the baby’s father.
“Okay…” says Holly, “But what do you want?” trying to help Nely’s focus on her own desires and needs – her heart’s desires. She knows that even a small step is significant. Her question prompts the discussion Holly frequently has with her young clients about careers and education options. She hopes Nely can envision a plan for her life beyond being a teenage mom. Holly asks gently, “If things don’t work out with your boyfriend, how might you support the baby? What kind of job would you be able to get?”
Nely is hesitant, so Holly continues, “Sometimes we don’t find out right away what we want to do. We just start someplace and get things going.” Nely mentions that she likes playing with kids like her nephew. Bingo, thinks Holly, a place to start. Knowing that full-time school is of little interest to Nely, she introduces Nely to the possibility of vocational-technical school in a child development career. Nely decides to enroll after giving birth to her baby.
Although the father of the baby never attends Holly and Nely’s meetings, his presence is felt. He is older than Nely and controlling. During one visit, he calls 20 times over the course of an hour. This is when Holly introduces Nely to the “cycle of abuse.” She explains the concept of emotional abuse, prompting Nely to open up.
“He says that no man will want me because I have a baby with him,” Nely confides. “He wants me to drop out of school because I’m not that smart anyway.” She even admits that he has hit her on occasion. “But I never thought of it as abuse,” says Nely. “He always apologized afterwards.” Holly focuses many subsequent sessions on strategies for building Nely’s self-esteem while learning how to communicate with her baby’s father even when his comments are negative and hurtful.
While Nely’s self-confidence is building, she is simultaneously preparing for motherhood. As it turns out, Nely is something of a natural. She begins to come out of her shell and is eager to learn everything she can. She is so eager, in fact, that Holly begins to jokingly call the beginning of their meetings “the attack.”
“I have so much to tell you!” Nely exclaims the moment Holly walks through the door for a meeting during her third trimester. “The baby is always moving! And I have a new pain. Is it a contraction?” Holly is thrilled that Nely has become the one asking the questions. The two discuss labor and delivery—Nely’s biggest fear—frequently. “Is it as bad as it looks on TV?” Nely asks.
Their discussion moves from labor and delivery to nutrition and care for the baby after birth. As the hour comes to a close, Holly shares one more tidbit. “Did you know that the baby can hear you when you talk? When your baby is born it will recognize your voice.” Nely stares at Holly with wide, amazed eyes. A spontaneous smile bursts onto her young face. Moments like this are the best part of Holly’s job.
Almost a year later, Holly and Nely are still meeting regularly at Nely’s mother’s house. Now, when Nely greets Holly at the door, she is carrying Bryanna, her nine-month-old daughter. Bryanna is a healthy, happy baby. She is shy like her mom but possesses the same wide-eyed smile.
Holly is pleased with Bryanna’s development and growth, but even more so with Nely’s. She is now in the tenth grade at a vocational technical program in early childhood development. She has ended her relationship with the baby’s father, although he still visits the baby occasionally. She’s even stepped out of her shell to have some fun, attending a recent school dance with friends.
Holly’s work is not done—the two will continue meeting until Bryanna is two years old. There are no guarantees that Nely will stay in school and maintain her growing self-esteem. But for now, it’s clear that the red flags in Nely’s life have transformed into green lights. With the help of Holly Poole and the Nurse-Family Partnership, Nely is on the path to becoming a successful mother, a high school graduate and a strong, confident woman.
Here's an example of how your support of Nurse-Family Partnership helps young families:
Nineteen and pregnant, Amanda had a lot on her plate, so she didn’t need any aggravation –but that’s just what she was getting. Her boyfriend – the father of her unborn child – got louder and angrier as he stood aggressively over Amanda, who was sitting at the kitchen table. That’s when Valerie stepped in.
Valerie Carberry, a nurse home visitor with Nurse-Family Partnership®(NFP), had been sitting with Amanda, offering advice for a healthy pregnancy, when the tirade began. Until now, Valerie had only seen his warm and engaging side –the side that had quickly charmed her young client and led to a pregnancy just five months later.
Valerie looked straight at the young man and asked him to step outside. “You’re out of line,” she said firmly before issuing a threat of her own: if he didn’t calm down, she would call the police. While he stewed, Valerie, cell phone in hand, turned her attention to Amanda. “Do you want me to call 9-1-1?”
“No,” replied Amanda, though she looked uncertain. Valerie was not content to leave matters where they stood. “He’s just cooling off because I’m here,” she said. “You have got to have a safety plan,” she added, handing her phone numbers for women’s shelters in this part of Colorado. Amanda jotted them down and tucked the list away. “I walked out of that visit going, ‘Oh my,’” Valerie would recall later. “But at least we had something in place.
”Amanda did not flee that day, but the wheels in her head had begun to turn—perhaps she could create a brand new life for herself and her unborn child, she thought to herself. In the three months since her initial meeting with Valerie, Amanda had shared the most intimate details of her family history: her mother’s periodic bouts with homelessness, how she herself had ended up living in her car after her father and stepmother were divorced, a family tree with step siblings and half-siblings and other relationships almost too complicated to sort out. And then there were the troubling reports about her boyfriend’s behavior. Not only did he regularly chastise Amanda about gaining weight, he made fun of her acne, which flared up due to stress. And he called her names.
These ongoing revelations left Valerie feeling a bit shell shocked—but she was more than prepared. Though new to NFP, Valerie was an experienced public health nurse, and the NFP program provided her with an arsenal of proven materials to use throughout a carefully designed course of action. She began by shoring up her client’s self-esteem just as a builder would reinforce a foundation before doing anything else.
Amanda, who had been concerned that she wouldn’t be a good mother due to her own troubled background, slowly began to recognize the direct correlation between excellent prenatal care and successful parenting. She was diligent about her medical appointments, diet and health. “I stopped dying my hair and tanning. I didn’t even microwave when I was pregnant!” Amanda says now, looking back. Valerie complimented Amanda on every positive step, and continually reminded her that these were, in fact, the very first steps in becoming a good mother.
Amanda continued to endure stress in her relationship—at one point she fled to her mother’s home in Florida, only to return to her boyfriend when he “sweet-talked” her into coming home—but in October she delivered a healthy baby boy. Amanda’s already strong maternal instincts were further reinforced by Valerie, who complimented Amanda when little Nolan gained weight. One of the highlights of their visits was weighing the little boy on the scale Valerie brought along with her. Four ounces equaled victory, and clearly, Nolan was thriving under Amanda’s care. “She took to it like a duck to water,” Valerie says. “I was just so motivated and high on being a mom,” says Amanda. “It’s like I was born to be a mom.”
By the time Nolan was six weeks old, however, Amanda began to “crash and burn,” recalls Valerie, who saw the signs of post-partum depression during her visits. Always fastidious about her housecleaning, Amanda would let the dishes pileup in the sink. The baby’s father wasn’t helping out much, and a new cycle of violence had begun.
When Nolan was three months old, Amanda says her boyfriend choked her as he held her over their son’s crib. “I couldn’t help but think how this would have scarred him for life if he had been five years old and could remember it,” says Amanda. It was finally time to put into effect the flight plan she had developed with Valerie all those months ago.
Scared but determined, Amanda called the police, who arrested her partner. By the time he made bail and returned to their apartment, Amanda had relocated to a shelter with her son. “Before, I remember always thinking I was going to be stuck,” says Amanda. “But it wasn’t just me now. I knew I could do it—but I didn’t know how.”
Always nearby to encourage her client and affirm that she had done exactly the right thing was Valerie, who continued to meet with Amanda in the shelter. Through the resources made available to her there, Amanda was able to enroll in college and move into her own apartment. In May, she graduated with an Associate Degree and plans to study speech therapy when Nolan is a little older. Nolan’s father provides financial support and visits with him regularly, but Amanda is through with him romantically and is currently dating a man who, as she puts it, “would rather die than lay a hand on me.”
“The program is awesome,” says Amanda, who graduated from NFP when Nolan turned two. “I don’t think I would have left Nolan’s father if Valerie hadn’t told me that what he was doing was wrong. She was that one voice. That’s all I needed. She never made it sound like I couldn’t do it. She used to tell me all the time I was a survivor. She really believed in me.”
Valerie tears up when told of Amanda’s heart-felt expression of gratitude; as if she had never quite realized the impact she’s had on her former client. “She did all the work,” Valerie replies modestly. “She just needed the consistency of someone saying, ‘You can do it’.”
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