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Goodwill pairs nurses with moms

BY Carolyn Muyskens - cmuyskens@chronicle-tribune.com

A free program offered through Goodwill of Central & Southern Indiana that pairs low-income moms with nurses who make regular home visits is now available to Grant County women.

Pregnant women in Grant County who live at 200 percent of the poverty level or below are eligible for the program, called the Goodwill Nurse-Family Partnership, which offers continual support during pregnancy and through the first two years after the baby is born.

“We are anxious to serve moms in Grant County,” said Lisa Crane, senior director for Goodwill NFP, which currently offers the program in 30 counties in Indiana.

Although no Grant County mothers have enrolled yet, as of August 4 the program had 66 first-time mothers enrolled in the northeast region, which includes Grant and six surrounding counties. The program has the capacity to serve a total of 200 in the region, Crane said.

Angel Hill, nurse supervisor for the northeast region, said nurse visits are focused on three goals: improving pregnancy and birth outcomes, improving the health and development of the child and improving the economic self-sufficiency of the family.

To accomplish these goals, the nurses educate first-time mothers throughout pregnancy and the early years of parenting about a wide range of health issues that affect their children, like smoking, domestic violence and nutrition.

Home visits mostly consist of conversations, and Hill lets the mother choose the topic of the day.

“It might be how do I quit smoking, how do I become the best mom I want to be, or what does labor look like,” Hill said. Hill then chooses a second “parallel” health topic to talk about with the mother.

“At the end of the visit we try to set a goal. What do they realistically think they can do? Can they quit one cigarette every two days until I visit again? … Whatever feels like it will be beneficial to them,” Hill said.

Decades of research on the Nurse-Family Partnership model, which is used across the country, has shown that the program reduces infant deaths, prevents child abuse, improves outcomes for the mother’s health and reduces instances of juvenile substance abuse and crime.

Hill said she thinks the program is so successful because of the personal relationship built between nurse and mother. Hill said the nurses act as educator, friend and advocate for the mothers they are paired with.

“(The nurse) is just a kind, caring person to be there to support them. For some that’s been very limited in their lives, to have somebody that really reaches out to you and shows compassion is almost unheard of for them,” Hill said.

And in the practice of mothering, Hill said, knowing how to develop a trusting, loving relationship is part of having a mentally and physically healthy child.

“(We have) clients who have been in sitatuations where they’ve been with DCS ... the clients that have just not had that maternal bonding with their mother, they’ve never seen it, so they don’t know what that looks like,” Hill said. “How do you be a successful mom if you’ve never seen it? You just didn’t experience it yourself.”

NFP was able to extend its reach to Grant and several other counties beginning in 2018 thanks to a $6.5 million grant from the Indiana State Department of Health’s Maternal and Child Health Division with the goal of reducing infant mortality rates in Indiana.

“That allowed us to build a team that can serve 200 families in the seven-county region that serves Grant... Additionally, it added more families that we can serve in Marion County and the surrounding counties,” Crane said. By the end of 2018, Crane said, the program will be serving 1475 Indiana families.

One of the reasons Crane thinks NFP is so successful in helping families improve outcomes is the holistic approach of the program, which seeks to support the family’s mental and financial health as well physical. Mothers enrolled in NFP, as well as their family members, can get connected through the program to Goodwill’s other services, like its job training program or its charter schools for adults, Excel Centers, to get support in other areas of their lives that affect their health and their children’s health.

“We’re able to wrap around our families and really support them,” Crane said. “That’s a huge benefit from the assocation with Goodwill.”

Ultimately, Hill said, sometimes it’s as simple as the nurse being that person in the mother’s life who says, “I believe in you.”

“The biggest thing is people are more likely to engage in a desirable behavior and make that change if they believe they can be successful to carry it out, and sometimes they just need that extra person along the way,” Hill said.