Do Something Different to Commemorate Mother's Day

by Nurse-Family Partnership
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.”


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


Card sent by Babies R Us/Boppy Shopper to NFP Mom
Card sent by Babies R Us/Boppy Shopper to NFP Mom

That connection is what Mother’s Day 2013 was all about, thanks to a unique partnership between The Boppy Company, maker of the award-winning Boppy® Feeding and Infant Support Pillow, and Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP). Together, they are supporting at-risk moms through The Boppy Effect™: Get One, Give One program.
As part of the program and in honor of Mother’s Day, for every Boppy® Slipcovered Pillow purchased by consumers at Babies"R"Us stores and during the month of May, The Boppy Company donated a Boppy Slipcovered Pillow to NFP agencies, which distribute them to Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) moms-in-need. The Boppy Company pledged to donate up to $250,000 worth of Boppy Slipcovered Pillows.
"Our team was so impacted by this program last year, that we have pledged to increase our total donation tenfold," said Nancy Bartley, CEO of The Boppy Company. "We’re excited by the opportunity to leverage our distinctive retail partnership with Babies"R"Us and their network of stores across the country to provide more moms access to the Boppy Pillow and a way to interface with this wonderful charitable organization."
Consumers also filled out a postcard – included with their purchased Boppy Pillows and in their Registry Gift Bags – to write a message of support to these vulnerable new NFP moms. The note was anything from a simple poem to a piece of advice. It connects those giving to those receiving and makes everyone happy – which is what "The Boppy Effect" was all about.

This support from the Boppy Company and all the people who registered for or bought Boppy pillows in the month of May was one of many ways Nurse-Family Partnership is working to get our name out and support more than 26,000 moms and babies in 43 states across the United States.  Your support of our program is invaluable as is your telling others about us - thank you! 

Nurse-Family Partnership - with your support - helps to improve the live of babies and their mothers in many ways; but did you know Nurse-Family Partnership has been proven to reduce child abuse and neglect by 48%? 

Major emphasis is being put on the reduction of child abuse and neglect throughout the United States and just this year so far Colorado Governor Hickenlooper announced that Colorado was improving the front end of Colorado’s child protection system through many areas including new prevention strategies to assist families before they become part of the system.  Nurse-Family Partnership was cited by Hickenlooper as one of the programs identified to enhance collaboration throughout the state. 

In Seattle, City Councilmember Tim Burgess said that by offering help to poor, first-time moms through Nurse-Family Partnership, “we’re going to lower crime, we’ll impact the economic stability of that little family and we’re going to improve education and safety for the children.”

Another example is a quote from child and youth advocate Michael Feigelson talking about violence in our society; "If we want to transform our collective outrage and sadness into hope and make progress on reducing violence in America, we should start with ideas that have produced results and build from there. 

Part of the plan needs to be about changing aspects of the way we support families to raise their children.  This means starting at the beginning.  One example of how to do this is the Nurse Family Partnership, a program that has provided intensive support to first-time at-risk mothers in the United States for over three decades.  The program teaches mothers (and fathers) to avoid behaviors that harm their babies and support them to develop resources and skills to be better parents."

These are just three examples of the many people and communities who are placing a priority on prevention and the outcomes Nurse-Family Partnership has been proven to impact in order to improve the baby's health and wellbeing, reduce costs to communities and strengthen families.

Thank you for your support!

Your support of Nurse-Family Partnership helps to fight childhood poverty in the United States. Attached to this report is a great article about the struggles of one family in Utah and how they are supported by Nurse-Family Partnership. This is an example of one out of more than 23,000 Nurse-Family Partnership families across 42 states that are really trying to provide a good start in life to their baby.

Every year, more than 500,000 babies across the United States are born into low-income homes, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Studies by the Department of Health and Human Services show that low-income children are more likely to suffer from physical abuse and neglect, have parents in conflict with the law, be exposed to toxic chemicals and experience hunger. They are also more likely to struggle in school, to repeat grades and have behavioral problems.

All of these stressors of being born into poverty are addressed by Nurse-Family Partnership and your generosity and advocacy of NFP helps make it possible to serve more and more of these families every year.


Antoinette and Carles with their son Carnell
Antoinette and Carles with their son Carnell

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.”



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Organization Information

Nurse-Family Partnership

Location: Denver, CO - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Michelle Stapleton
Denver, CO United States

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