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 visio...
Sep 24, 2015

New Moms Find Support in Relationship with Nurse

Nurse-Family Partnership moms are faced with so many challenges - like finding a place to live and not having the support of family – and with support of donors like you we are able to help them face these challenges and become strong, self-sufficient parents.  Following is a great video from 'Women in the World' featuring Alyssa, a Nurse-Family Partnership mom, and her child (2 minutes 22 seconds): http://nytlive.nytimes.com/womenintheworld/2015/05/10/new-mom-finds-support-strength-in-relationship-with-visiting-nurse/  - by Jennifer Perry

Alyssa and her son are off to a strong start as a family - thank you for helping to change the lives of families and supporting Nurse-Family Partnership - you are making a difference!

Jun 29, 2015

Getting from Point A to Point B

Sharline with Ajani
Sharline with Ajani

“I want to go to school and get an education and I want my child to be able to look up to me and follow in the right footsteps. I don’t want the child to want for anything, so I want to be financially stable;" says Sharline, "seeing my mother struggle with five kids growing up, I refuse to be in that situation. I don’t want to be like that.”  

Sharline is a Nurse-Family Partnership mom and with your support she is setting goals to improve her life and the life of her son, Ajani.  Following is more about Sharline and Ajani:

“Let’s start with Point A, where you are now, and draw a plan to get you to Point B, where you want to be.”

This is how nurse home visitor Coydette Binns begins her work with new clients in the Targeted Citywide Initiative, a Nurse-Family Partnership unit uniquely created to address the special needs of pregnant women and teens in homeless shelters, foster care, and Rikers correctional facility. Today she is meeting in Brooklyn, N.Y., with Sharline, a client like none she has met before.

Sharline’s “Point A” is similar to the starting point of other young women in the program – age 19, little family support, abandoned by her baby’s father and referred to the program by the group facility in which she is living after a stint of homelessness. But when Sharline starts talking about what she wants from her pregnancy and what she wants to achieve in life – her “Point B” – Coydette can barely take notes fast enough.

“For starters,” Sharline begins, “I want to go to school and get an education and I want my child to be able to look up to me and follow in the right footsteps. I don’t want the child to want for anything, so I want to be financially stable. Seeing my mother struggle with five kids growing up, I refuse to be in that situation. I don’t want to be like that.”

And she’s not done. “I am a Muslim and am into natural, holistic birthing options. I put my faith in God and I know my body will do what it needs to do. I’ve been doing research on the Internet and I’m interested in water birth and birthing centers.” Coydette continues jotting down notes. “I’m finishing school and doing an internship at Long Island Hospital because my goal is to be a midwife. First I have to be an RN and the closest thing to nursing is being a home health aide, so I want to look into programs to do that.”

Coydette smiles as she digests all of the information pouring forth from Sharline, who is not only intelligent and driven, but also beautiful – a mix of Puerto Rican and African-American heritage, tall and slim with a little baby bump. Coydette has become used to clients who have conducted research online, but Sharline is the most proactive, determined young woman she has ever met.

As a former labor and delivery nurse in a hospital, Coydette doesn’t know much about home birthing, nor does she have extensive experience with Muslim culture; what she does know is that her job as a nurse home visitor is to support Sharline in all of her choices and aspirations. This means that a lot of mutual learning will occur.

At future meetings, which take place bi-weekly at first and then weekly as Sharline’s due date approaches, Coydette and Sharline talk about nutrition, health and life skills. Coydette learns from Sharline that Muslim dietary guidelines are consistent with healthy pregnancy eating. Sharline learns from Coydette about Associate Degree programs that will best help her quickly enter the workforce.

Throughout the months, Coydette guides Sharline in identifying various holistic birthing options. There are challenges to getting health insurance to pay for delivery in a birthing center, and Sharline breaks down in tears one day, worried that she will have to deliver in a hospital against her wishes. Coydette encourages her to be persistent and eventually Sharline finds a midwife, and eventually, Sharline secures insurance to cover a home birth.

Throughout Sharline’s pregnancy, she continues to attend high school in the evenings and work six days a week in her home health aide training program. Coydette is there through it all, often meeting with Sharline on Friday evenings – the only time Sharline is available.

By Sharline’s due date, January 1, she has moved out of the group facility, which is standard procedure for pregnant women, and temporarily moved in to a friend’s home. On January 2, a snowy Saturday, Coydette arrives for a scheduled meeting, bearing a gift to celebrate the upcoming birth. After talking as usual, Coydette is about to say goodbye when Sharline suddenly jumps to her feet.

“I felt something pop!” she says. Coydette tells her to go to the bathroom and check to see what happened. Sharline, who by this point has learned about every stage of labor, announces that her mucus plug has broken. “Sharline! Oh my gosh! Call your midwife!” exclaims Coydette.

As Sharline’s labor pains intensify rapidly, Coydette becomes concerned. She is a trained labor and delivery nurse, but does not have privileges to deliver a baby, nor is that part of the role of an NFP nurse. “Sharline,” she says, trying to sound calm even if she doesn’t feel it, “If your midwife is not here soon, I will have to call 911!”

Fortunately, Tioma, the midwife, arrives within minutes. She takes charge quickly and calmly. Sharline’s sister is called and arrives a few minutes later with family and friends to provide support and comfort to Sharline.

Sharline’s pain intensifies and Tioma has her walk the hallway as she runs warm bath water. When Sharline screams in pain, all of her friends and family scream with her in encouragement. Eventually Tioma says it is time to get in the tub and Sharline slides in, feeling warm and safe in the water. About an hour later, less than four hours after jumping up from the couch, Sharline’s son Ajani arrives in the world. He lets out one little cry, then calmly, alertly, looks around at his surroundings.

Sharline has been told that newborns can’t smile, but her son is definitely smiling just moments after his birth. “He is smiling! This is a miracle!” everyone exclaims around her. It is exactly the calm, beautiful home birth that Sharline wanted.

Two months after Ajani is born, Sharline graduates from high school with one of the highest GPAs in her class and wins awards for perfect attendance and honor roll. Currently she and her son are living in a shelter for families. However, Sharline is in a college program working towards her nursing degree. For the next two years, Coydette will continue meeting with Sharline to help her develop a plan for permanent housing and provide parenting advice and personal encouragement.

As for Ajani, whose African name means “one who fights for what he believes in,” in six months he has grown from 5 pounds, 14 ounces, to a whopping 20 pounds. He appears to be a natural leader. Although Sharline had planned to breastfeed longer, he weans himself at four months. When he plays Peek-a-boo, he takes over from the adult he’s playing with and runs the show. Placed on his stomach to try crawling, he sets his sights on a spot in the room and wiggles nonstop until he gets there.

Despite being born into challenging life circumstances, Ajani appears to be smart, hardworking and determined to get what he wants. Just like his mother.

Thank you for supporting families like Sharline and Ajani and helping to improve their lives!

Jun 29, 2015

Helping new moms reach their goals

Sam and Izobel
Sam and Izobel

‘I am about to have a baby on my own, I need the help!’” said Sam, an Nurse-Family Partnership mom.

Your support of Nurse-Family Partnership helps thousands of moms every day - like Sam.

Following is more of Sam's story: 

After several failed attempts to reach out to Sam by phone, Karen Mitteness - nurse home visitor for the Supporting Hands Nurse-Family Partnership program in rural Minnesota - thought she may never connect with Sam. Karen was adamant to make this connection, but it was not working out.

It wasn’t until Sam was at her local WIC office in Benson, Minnesota and her nurse there told her to speak with Karen, that a connection was finally made. Karen recalls Sam walked in her office and kindly said, “Hi, I’m the girl who never returns your phone calls.” The relationship grew from there.

Twenty-four-year-old Sam had a lot on her mind and wasn’t sure if enrolling in the Nurse-Family Partnership ® (NFP)  program was something she could manage. She had recently called off an engagement and knew she could use help since this was her first baby. “I really had no idea what Nurse-Family Partnership would offer. After meeting Karen that first day, she explained the program is there to prepare me to have my baby and we would discuss topics I wanted to learn about. I thought, ‘I am about to have a baby on my own, I need the help!’” said Sam.

In the beginning, Sam was not comfortable opening up to Karen, but after several visits that all changed.  “I am a private person and it was hard sharing with Karen,” said Sam. “I now get excited to share things Izobel  (Sam’s daughter) does and I want to share everything all the time!” said Sam.

The relationship Karen and Sam built has helped Sam learn to take on life’s moments, one thing at a time. “Learning I was pregnant was scary at first. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” said Sam. “I thought, ‘Oh boy what did I get myself into. I have to bathe her on my own and get up in the middle of the night.’” Sam realized she was beginning a journey that would be both rewarding and difficult, but with Karen’s help she learned to take on each moment as it happened.

“Karen has helped me be more relaxed about things,” said Sam. “Karen says, ‘Do what you can and that is all that matters.’” The support Sam received from Karen helped Sam in the most difficult times. When Sam was 20-weeks pregnant an ultrasound showed her daughter had a swollen kidney. “The doctors continued to monitor Izobel’s kidney, but there was no improvement,” said Sam. Sam’s daughter would need kidney surgery. Karen and Sam discussed what to expect with Izobel’s surgery. “Karen and I went over the surgeon’s plans and orders. I think Karen knew better than I did that the surgery was going to be rough on me. She was right,” said Sam.

When Izobel was 3-months old, Sam drove three hours in blizzard conditions to the Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota for Izobel’s kidney surgery. Sam was terrified to drive in a big city and in bad weather conditions. “My home town of Appleton has about 800 people, we don’t have a stop light in our town, so driving in a big city and in the snow was nerve wracking, but my friend and I found our way safely,” Sam said.

Sam’s daughter Izobel didn’t just have one surgery for her kidney - she had three. Her first surgery was unsuccessful and had to be repeated. Izobel was also sent home with a suprapubic catheter. The second surgery was successful and Izobel’s third surgery was to remove the stint placed on her kidney. While Sam was in the hospital she was gracious to the kind nurses who took care of her daughter and gracious to the guidance she received from Karen during that time.

“Izobel’s nurses were amazing,” said Sam. “Izobel’s nurses taught me how to take care of her and my CNA training also made me less nervous about it all. After Izobel’s surgery Karen reassured me that I was taking care of Izobel the way I needed to. It was nice having Karen there to talk about Izobel’s surgery.”

Taking care of Izobel after her surgery sparked more interest in Sam to continue her schooling for nursing. “I thought, ‘These nurses are great.  Why can’t I do that too?’”

Karen will tell you one of Sam’s strengths is when she puts her mind to something and has the support, she gets it done. Sam did exactly that. With Karen’s support and motivation, Sam applied for an online licensed practiced nurse (LPN) program in Watertown, South Dakota and received the news she wasn’t expecting to hear. “Sam was told she needed a letter that would demonstrate she was worthy of admittance,” said Karen.  Sam was determined to get accepted and asked Karen to write her a letter of recommendation. “I wrote a letter for Sam and she was told she was put on a waiting list,” said Karen. 

Being put on the waiting list did not stop Sam. She signed up for online classes with another institution and began taking courses. While attending a doctor’s appointment for her daughter, Sam received a phone call saying she was admitted to the online LPN program in South Dakota and was overwhelmed with joy.

This was great news that would help her reach her goals.Sam would now take on even more classes since she was accepted to the LPN online program. Today, Sam plans to complete the LPN program and continue to go on and become a registered nurse. Sam is currently facing her most difficult semester. “I am taking 16 credits in school, I work part-time and I am Izobel’s mother full time,” said Sam.

Sam lives with her father, who is hearing impaired and divorced her mother when Sam was a young age.  While her dad has been supportive, one of her goals besides obtaining her LPN and becoming a registered nurse is to move out of her father’s house. “My dad is a great support to me and Izobel, but I don’t want to live at home forever,” said Sam.  Sam currently is raising her daughter on her own, but has a good relationship with Izobel’s father.

Little 1-year-old Izobel is the light of Sam’s life. “She is outgoing and not afraid of anyone,” said Karen. “Izobel is a gem!”

Sam shares, Izobel’s unique way her name is spelled comes from a character from one of her favorite television series, but she made her name even more unique by spelling it with a ‘z.’

Sam has learned to focus on her goals and has become a confident mother because of the NFP program. “This program has helped me so much, Karen is always so positive and makes me feel good about school and Izobel,” said Sam. “Karen doesn’t make every meeting only about Izobel, because once you have a baby it is all about the baby. Karen discusses school with me and my future.”

The next challenge Sam faces besides balancing being a mother, school and working a part-time job is her daughter’s vision. Izobel has to wear an eye patch three hours a day and wears glasses all day as well. “Izobel’s gotten a lot better about wearing the eye patch and glasses,” said Sam. “She of course doesn’t like wearing the eye patch and glasses all the time and wants to take them off, but she is learning she has to wear them.”

Izobel wears the eye patch to strengthen the muscles in her eye. “Sam is very good about keeping the eye patch and glasses on Izobel, which you can imagine can be a struggle at times, but she always has the patch and glasses on Izobel when we have visits,” said Karen.

Sam and Karen’s relationship continues to grow. If it wasn’t for Sam making that initial connection that day in Karen’s office, Sam’s life would be different. “I would definitely be more uptight and worried that I was doing something wrong with Izobel. Karen has been great because she never puts me down or makes me feel like I'm doing something wrong, so I wouldn't have that positive support either. Karen gave me the push to go back to school. With Karen’s help, I can make good decisions for me and Izobel. It's going to be strange when she (Karen) stops her visits.” said Sam.

Karen will continue to visit Sam until Izobel turns 2-years old. Karen has seen many improvements in Sam and knows Sam will have a bright future. “I give Sam a lot of credit. She has demonstrated so much maturity and made many decisions. She focuses on her strengths and I see things moving in a positive direction for her,” said Karen.

Postscript - Sam completed her first semester with a 4.0 GPA and made the President’s list. She and Izobel are doing well and Sam is looking forward to Izobel growing and learning more every day. 

Sam graduated from the Nurse-Family Partnership program in December 2014. 

Thank you for helping to make a difference in the lives of families through Nurse-Family Partnership.

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