Program for at-Risk moms helps them achieve their dreams
Sephora was 19, a first-time mom, and worried about looking after a baby. She mentioned her insecurity to her social worker at the Maternity Centre and learned about the Nurse Family Partnership, an intensive, evidence-based home visiting program pairing first-time moms under 21 with a public health nurse. The partnership starts early in pregnancy – before 28 weeks gestation – and continues until, some 40 visits later, the baby turns two.
Moms – and sometimes dads – follow a flexible curriculum and have “homework” to complete. They learn about nutrition, child development and how to play with their baby. They talk about finances. Relationships. Housing. And, they’re encouraged to share their “heart’s desires” about what they want for their own future and their baby’s.
“We help clients believe they have the power to change their own lives,” explains program manager Dianne Busser.
Success is measured in different ways. Some parents finish high school and go on to college or university. Others are still struggling but, having experienced a stable relationship with their nurse, now have the confidence to seek additional help. The babies benefit, too. Studies of the program, which originated 30 years ago in the U.S., show improved health and school readiness.
HCF was one of the program’s original partners, helping to fund a feasibility study in 2008. Close to 100 graduates later, the program is at capacity helping to serve a critical community need.
The power of the Foundation to do good, says Dianne, goes well beyond the dollars. “When agencies like the community foundation get involved it encourages other donors and agencies to contribute.”
Sephora recommends the program to her friends and family. “I tell them if you have any questions, if you’re struggling with something, they’re there for you.”
“The message to our clients is, hey you can do this,” says Dianne. “This isn’t just about their economic struggles. We need to be celebrating their success along the way.”
Vital Signs Fact
• Almost one in 20 pregnant women in Hamilton was aged 15 to 19 in 2008, higher than the provincial average. Some Hamilton neighbourhoods have teen pregnancy rates that exceed one in nine.