Center for Family Strengthening is dedicated to strengthening families through education and advocacy. The center partners with family support organizations in San Luis Obispo County to provide resources to families in need, protect children from abuse and neglect, and ensure that strong families are a community priority.

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  • Meet Yesenia, a Nurse Family Partnership success story

    Nurse Family Partnership provides first-time moms with support and mentoring Meet Yesenia, a very smart but also very shy girl who graduated from high school at age sixteen. Pregnant at… Read more…

  • The Success of Nurse-Family Partnership

    SLO County’s Amazing Hero-Nurses for First-Time Moms The Nurse-Family Partnership of San Luis Obispo County (NFP), is a tremendously successful maternal and childhood health programs for low-income first-time mothers. As a national… Read more…

  • CFS Promotes Staff Member

    Center for Family Strengthening promotes Erica Ruvalcaba-Heredia to Director of Promotores Collaborative. “We are thrilled with Erica’s accomplishments in driving the growth and success of Promotores Collaborative,” said Lisa Fraser,… Read more…

  • CFS Welcomes New Program Coordinator

    Gwendolyn Garcia has joined Center for Family Strengthening as Program Coordinator for CFS’ major programs: Parent Connection, Kidz Tool Box for personal safety, Promotores Collaborative, Central Coast Breastfeeding Coalition and… Read more…

  • CFS moves to new location

    Center for Family Strengthening has moved its corporate headquarters to 3480 South Higuera, Suite 100, San Luis Obispo. Affiliate agency ALPHA Pregnancy and Parenting Support is also moving its corporate… Read more…

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Meet Yesenia, a Nurse Family Partnership success story

Nurse Family Partnership provides first-time moms with support and mentoring

Meet Yesenia, a very smart but also very shy girl who graduated from high school at age sixteen. Pregnant at age nineteen, Yesenia was still very shy and had not yet acquired important life skills critical to becoming a good mom. The turning point for Yesenia to become a loving, successful mom would be her enrollment into the Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) of San Luis Obispo County.The NFP is a national evidence-based nurse home visitation program that provides first-time moms and their families with emotional, practical support and mentoring throughout their pregnancy and until their baby reaches two years of age. The Center for Family Strengthening (CFS) is the Advisory Board to NFP.

Yesenia, son Noah and NFP nurse Nancy Goldsmith, PHN

Community Health Centers (CHC) of San Luis Obispo County suggested that Yesenia enroll in the NFP program. Being less than seven months pregnant, Yesenia qualified for the program. Nurse Nancy Goldsmith, PHN became her home visiting nurse. I sat in observation of Yesenia and Nancy during one of their home visits so I might learn more about the NFP program, what it meant to Yesenia and how it helped change her life in learning how to be a good mom.

Yesenia suffered from depression before and after the birth of her son Noah. Noah had jaundice and respiratory distress at birth and needed to stay in the Sierra Vista Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for one week before coming home. Yesenia was very fearful about bringing Noah home. Nancy had been working with Yesenia before Noah’s birth and was there during this difficult time to provide her the critical guidance and emotional support she needed.

With Nancy’s help, Yesenia learned that Noah would quickly pick up what she is feeling and that it is so important to develop a healthy personal outlook herself to assure the well-being of her baby. Yesenia describes Nancy’s help during this time as simply amazing and is certain that her and Noah’s life would be very much different without the help of an NFP nurse.

Yesenia said that Nancy changed everything for her. She wanted to be a good mom and believes Nancy helped her to learn what it takes to care for Noah as well for her family. Nancy visited Yesenia bi-monthly, initially providing support during her pregnancy. After birth, Nancy provided guidance and introduced important life skills that created a healthy environment for mother and son. As Noah grew, Nancy taught Yesenia about childhood development and what to expect at different stages in Noah’s life as well as ways to encourage his development.

The day I was there, Nancy was preparing Yesenia for Noah’s next stage, toilet training. Nancy explains that a child will let you know when he’s ready to learn to use the toilet and the most important thing you can do is to be patient, commit to the time it will take and be relaxed. All of this will help the child relax. A mom who is stressed during toilet training can delay the child’s success. To help prepare Noah for toilet training, Yesenia learned to change Noah’s diaper only in the bathroom; she taught Noah about what wet and dry feels like, and to put a potty-chair in the bathroom. As a result of this preparation, Yesenia learned that Noah wasn’t quite ready. She now knows what’s ahead and is committed to the process when Noah is ready.

Through the NFP program, Yesenia has learned to communicate better with her partner; sharing her feelings with him and standing up for herself. As a result, her relationship with her partner has improved immensely. Both her partner and Yesenia agreed to avoid having arguments in front of their son. Her partner is more supportive of Yesenia’s independence. Yesenia is now setting and achieving personal goals. She has started college and is taking classes in childhood development. She is devoted to creating a healthy, happy and safe environment for Noah and her family.

Yesenia’s loving and confident care for Noah was overwhelmingly apparent during the visit. Even as Yesenia is conversing with those present, she is attentive to what Noah is doing and anticipates what he might get into that would cause him harm. She is patient with him, consistently shows him love, teaches him as they play together, and is constantly talking to and guiding him. Yesenia fills Noah’s day with outside walks, playtime and loving conversation and care. She is a confident, wonderful mother and has set her sights on having a healthy and thriving lifestyle for herself and her baby. All of this joy and high expectations by Yesenia for herself, Noah and her family was encouraged and supported by Nancy Goldsmith and Nurse-Family Partnerships.

The Nurse-Family Partnership Program in San Luis Obispo County has demonstrated phenomenal results. Positive outcomes for the moms are higher than in other health managed programs. Ninety-percent of the women who start the program complete the entire program. Seventeen-percent of the women in the program without a high school diploma or GED returned to school by 12 months postpartum. Seventy-seven percent of clients are working within 24 months.

The NFP is making possible positive outcomes for the babies that are phenomenal: 92.4-percent of the babies reach full term, 93.1-percent are born at a healthy weight, and 96.7-percent of the babies receive breast milk.

The County of San Luis Obispo offers two programs that provide families with nurse visits to improve child and family health.

  • Early Support helps at-risk families such as teen parents, or those in need of parenting guidance, and those affected by abuse, homelessness, mother/baby exposure to tobacco, alcohol or other drugs and children with medical needs.
  • Nurse-Family Partnerships helps low-income, first-time moms who are less than seven months (28 weeks) pregnant by providing mentoring, emotional and practical support throughout their pregnancy and after birth until babies reach two years of age.

Center for Family Strengthening is the Community Advisory Board to NFP. Cherie M. Fields RN, BSN, PHN is the Field Nursing Program Manager for both programs and can be reached at (805) 788-2063.

In 1988 the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors designated Center for Family Strengthening as the self-governing entity responsible for local efforts to prevent and respond to child abuse and neglect. Center for Family Strengthening is dedicated to strengthening families through education and advocacy. Center for Family Strengthening partners with family support organizations in SLO County to provide resources to families in need, to protect children from abuse and neglect, and to ensure that strong families are a community priority. To donate or learn more about Center for Family Strengthening visit the website or call (805) 543-6216.

The Success of Nurse-Family Partnership


SLO County’s Amazing Hero-Nurses for First-Time Moms

The Nurse-Family Partnership of San Luis Obispo County (NFP), is a tremendously successful maternal and childhood health programs for low-income first-time mothers. As a national evidence-based program, it provides first-time moms with mentoring, emotional and practical support throughout their pregnancy and until their babies reach two years of age. The Center for Family Strengthening is the community advisory board to NFP. The program has a big reason to celebrate, thanks to five dedicated and compassionate nurses: Melissa Lovett-Adair, Jamie Peterson, Nancy Goldsmith, Nakia Wheeler and Carol Martin (the supervisor). Each has a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and has earned a Certificate in Public Health. Public health training includes a myriad of tools: medical care, social work, parenting skills, coping skills, confidence-building, safety, family dynamics, and career and dietary training. Some nurses have also earned a Master’s Degree in Nursing, Public Health or other related fields like Psychology or Sociology. All have also spent several years in a hospital working with patients.

Nancy Goldsmith, Jamie Peterson, Carol Martin, Melissa Lovett-Adair, Nakia Wheeler, & Cherie Fields

The nurses become “true life coaches” and a consistent force in the lives of the mothers. They draw from their highly technical training as well as their life challenges including motherhood, facing adversity and building resilience in their own lives. They win their client’s trust by being non-judgmental, showing warmth and compassion, and being forthright and honest. Since the nurses don’t know what to expect when they first enter a home, each must assess the situation and use the palette of all their training and education as well as their life experience to help these new mothers.

First-time mothers are referred to the program through WIC (Women, Infants, and Children), their doctor, obstetricians, pediatricians, hospitals, community clinics, or they can directly contact the Nurse-Family Partnership of San Luis Obispo County (NFP). The only program requirements are low-income and first pregnancy before 28 weeks. The nurses each work with a caseload of 25 Moms, scheduling in-home consultations either weekly or bi-weekly based on the needs of the mother. Consultations are customized to achieve the goal of maintaining a healthy pregnancy and also achieving the mother’s aspirations and goals for her baby and their future life.

Peterson said, “All moms when experiencing their first pregnancy are at a unique and critical developmental stage in their life. The biological changes brought about by pregnancy, present the mom-to-be with a unique recognition and emotional understanding and acceptance that she is being given an opportunity for a fresh start, an exciting opportunity to create a wonderful change in her life and her baby’s life. Every mom-to-be wants a better life for their child than they had for themselves.”

“Many moms do not have a good support system,” said Wheeler. “We support them by listening, establishing a relationship based on trust, and helping them achieve their goals. I often hear moms say ‘I want better for my children’; as public health nurses, we can help them decide what ‘better’ looks like and how to get there.”

Most of the mothers coming into the program range in age from 14–40. Some have other risk factors including intimate partner violence or substance abuse. Some have low self-esteem and lack parenting skills and knowledge of child development. A few may be homeless. Some have bachelor’s degrees while others are still in high school. No one characteristic defines them or applies to all. What is amazing is that these mothers can sense and grasp that they are at a point in life where with the guidance of their nurse, they can truly build a much better life. Nearly 96% succeed in bringing a healthy baby and better life into our community.

Working as a public health nurse with mothers in their home is very different than working in the controlled environment of a hospital. As Peterson put it, “You are alone out there and need to be comfortable in your skin with the right attitude. To be invited in and invited back you need to earn the mom’s respect.”

All progress to goals is acknowledged and celebrated. For example, with Peterson’s help, one 19-year-old mother burdened with low self-esteem and dependent on a controlling partner, managed to rethink her choices and leave her partner. The mother researched opening her own business and today has her own taco restaurant. Another mother, who achieved an engineering degree in Mexico, came to the United States with her husband and could not find work. She did not speak English. She has the determination to support her family and created income by cooking for migrant farm workers.

Positive outcomes are higher than in other health managed programs. Ninety percent of the women who start the program complete the entire program. Seventeen percent of the women in the program without a high school diploma or GED returned to school by 12 months postpartum. Seventy-seven percent of clients are working at 24 months. Positive outcomes for the babies are phenomenal: 92.4 percent of the babies reach full term, 93.1 percent are born at a healthy weight, and 96.7 percent of the babies receive breast milk.

Each nurse in the program has a unique view about the benefits of the program.

Goldsmith believes having a child is an amazing gift and it is an incredible blessing to have the opportunity as a parent to guide, encourage and love your child. Guidance from an NFP nurse provides a valuable opportunity to change negative behaviors and break cycles. It gives parents positive alternatives for encouraging and promoting their child’s physical, mental and emotional well-being. Goldsmith supports and recognizes the value of preventative health care and also emphasizes that self-care is a very vital and important aspect of parenting. She sees the work as an NFP home visitor as a very challenging, comprehensive and rewarding aspect of nursing. She is very touched to hear from and see clients that have graduated from the program who are thriving and accomplishing much.

Peterson and Wheeler agree that the career is both challenging and extremely rewarding. They are thrilled to see their clients make progress.

Martin adds that the nurses give mothers hope that they can succeed and always looks for something positive in mothers’ interactions with their babies. Martin provides positive feedback and encourages them to talk and play with their baby as much possible. Martin is delighted when she runs into her clients years later and finds that mothers and children are doing so well.

Lovett-Adair focuses on bringing out the best in clients and celebrating their strengths and teaches mothers to manage a child’s behavior in a loving, healthy way. “It’s about empowering moms to learn ways to take care of themselves. The NFP career is a great opportunity to have a positive impact on people’s lives. You never forget them. It’s a privilege to support women making changes in their lives.”

All the NFP nurses agree it would be wonderful to have this program for all first-time mothers. NFP nurses are truly hero-nurses for SLO county first-time mothers.

San Luis Obispo County is currently hiring nurses for other departments. For more information about NFP visit the program website.

 

CFS Promotes Staff Member

Center for Family Strengthening promotes Erica Ruvalcaba-Heredia to Director of Promotores Collaborative. “We are thrilled with Erica’s accomplishments in driving the growth and success of Promotores Collaborative,” said Lisa Fraser, Executive Director of Center for Family Strengthening. “Her leadership, planning, and execution of “Promotores Collaborative” are having a transformational impact on our Spanish-speaking Community.”

Ruvalcaba-Heredia is a graduate of the University of Santa Barbara and earned her Master’s Degree in Spanish and BA in Spanish and Latino and Iberian Studies. She holds a PhEd in Organizational Leadership from the University of Laverne.

Promotores Collaborative,” of San Luis Obispo County is an emerging prevention and health education model that works for the Latino community with neighbor-to-neighbor outreach activities. This promising and novel program, introduced by Center for Family Strengthening (CFS), is rapidly changing our Spanish-speaking Community from within to achieve greater and greater success. Organized and trained volunteer Latinos within the neighborhood are providing a path for other Latinos in the neighborhood to thrive.

Promotores volunteers reach into the Latino neighborhoods to recruit, organize and train networks of Spanish-speaking volunteers who introduce Latinos to important beneficial services to build healthy communities. Through Promotores, the Latino Community, neighborhood by neighborhood, is learning essential life skills. Promotores provides Latinos access to healthy foods, nutritional education, emotional support, access to mental health resources such as substance abuse and domestic violence programs, medical and dental care access, and programs tailored to child development, effective parenting and education.

About Center for Family Strengthening (formerly SLO-CAP): In 1988 the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors designated Center for Family Strengthening (CFS) as the self-governing entity responsible for local efforts to prevent and respond to child abuse and neglect. Center for Family Strengthening is dedicated to strengthening families through education and advocacy. Center for Family Strengthening partners with family support organizations in SLO County to provide resources to families in need, protect children from abuse and neglect, and ensure that strong families are a community priority. To donate or learn more about Center for Family Strengthening go to www.cfsslo.org or call (805) 543-6216.

CFS Welcomes New Program Coordinator

Gwendolyn Garcia has joined Center for Family Strengthening as Program Coordinator for CFS’ major programs: Parent Connection, Kidz Tool Box for personal safety, Promotores Collaborative, Central Coast Breastfeeding Coalition and Postpartum Depression Support Services.

Garcia graduated from California Polytechnic University with a Bachelors of Science Degree in Child Development and a minor in Psychology and also holds an Associate Degree in Early Child Development and Behavioral Sciences.

Impressively, while completing her studies at Cal Poly, she received training through Active Parenting and Positive Discipline. She worked as an“early childhood educator” at Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo, served as Assistant Director at the Shepard Christian Preschool and was a co-teacher working with pre-schoolers at the County Office of Education in Paso Robles and Shandon.

We are thrilled to have Gwen as an addition to our team,” said Lisa Fraser, Executive Director of Center for Family Strengthening. “Gwen’s education, experience, her enthusiasm in working with preschoolers and her ability to create supportive environments for children and families substantially enhance our efforts in strengthening families and preventing abuse and neglect in children.

Center for Family Strengthening is a SLO-based non-profit agency dedicated to preventing child abuse and neglect through by building stronger families and supporting them with a myriad of programs.

Through its Parent Connection, Center for Family Strengthening offers parenting skills classes and coaching skills, and manages the Postpartum Depression Support Line and support services. Through Kidz Toolbox for Personal Safety, CFS teaches child protective and safety skills. CFS’ Beginnings program offers prenatal substance use awareness. CFS also educates the San Luis Obispo Community at large about child abuse reporting laws. Promotores Collaborative is a volunteer team of Spanish-speaking members who connect to families in need. CFS works with Public Health Programs to make dental care accessible to the thousands of children in this San Luis Obispo County who do not qualify for Medical. The Central Coast Breast Feeding Coalition brings together a collaborative team of breastfeeding advocates to network, share resources, accomplish projects and provide breastfeeding education based on current research and best practice. To provide families high-quality services and opportunities to thrive, CFS also partners with 14 county-wide Family Resource Centers.

About Center for Family Strengthening (formerly SLO-CAP): In 1988 the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors designated Center for Family Strengthening (CFS) as the self-governing entity responsible for local efforts to prevent and respond to child abuse and neglect. Center for Family Strengthening is dedicated to strengthening families through education and advocacy. Center for Family Strengthening partners with family support organizations in SLO County to provide resources to families in need, protect children from abuse and neglect, and ensure that strong families are a community priority. To donate or learn more about Center for Family Strengthening go to www.cfsslo.org or call (805) 543-6216.

CFS moves to new location

Center for Family Strengthening has moved its corporate headquarters to 3480 South Higuera, Suite 100, San Luis Obispo. Affiliate agency ALPHA Pregnancy and Parenting Support is also moving its corporate headquarters and will co-locate with Center for Family Strengthening.

We’re pleased to share corporate offices with ALPHA,” said Lisa Fraser, executive director of Center for Family Strengthening. “We’re able to provide additional services to ALPHA’s Clients when needed and share in administrative expenses where possible.”

Center for Family Strengthening is an SLO-based non-profit agency dedicated to preventing child abuse and neglect through by building stronger families and supporting them with a myriad of programs.

Through its Parent Connection, Center for Family Strengthening offers parenting skills classes and coaching skills, and manages the Postpartum Depression Support Line and support services. Through Kidz Toolbox for Personal Safety, CFS teaches child protective and safety skills. CFS’ Beginnings program offers prenatal substance use awareness. CFS also educates the San Luis Obispo Community at large about child abuse reporting laws. Promotores Collaborative is a volunteer team of Spanish-speaking members who connect to families in need. CFS works with Public Health Programs to make dental care accessible to the thousands of children in this San Luis Obispo County who do not qualify for Medical. The Central Coast Breast Feeding Coalition brings together a collaborative team of breastfeeding advocates to network, share resources, accomplish projects and provide breastfeeding education based on current research and best practice. To provide families high-quality services and opportunities to thrive, CFS also partners with 14 county-wide Family Resource Centers.

Ron Huxley, Family Healer and Therapeutic Parent Coach, featured guest speaker at the recent Child Abuse Prevention Academy at Cuesta College, described how abusive emotional childhood experiences could so negatively affect a young child resulting in underdeveloped social and emotional skills as well as negative impacts on our society as a whole.

According to experts, child abuse is preventable by strengthening families and fostering the healthy development of children. Working with the Community, CFS prevents child abuse by offering programs that make systemic changes in lives of families. A community that cares about early childhood development, parental support, and maternal mental health will foster nurturing families and healthy children.

Child abuse and neglect are found in families across the social and economic spectrum. Social isolation, financial stress, poverty, substance abuse, and domestic violence are all factors that can lead to adults abusing children.

About Center for Family Strengthening (formerly SLO-CAP)

In 1988 the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors designated Center for Family Strengthening (CFS) as the self-governing entity responsible for local efforts to prevent and respond to child abuse and neglect. Center for Family Strengthening is dedicated to strengthening families through education and advocacy. Center for Family Strengthening partners with family support organizations in SLO County to provide resources to families in need, protect children from abuse and neglect, and ensure that strong families are a community priority.

To donate or learn more about Center for Family Strengthening go to www.cfsslo.org or call (805) 543-6216.

About Alpha Pregnancy and Parenting Support

Alpha provides support, practical assistance during pregnancy through a child’s second year, and education on pregnancy and early parenting throughout San Luis Obispo County.

To donate or learn more about Alpha Pregnancy and Parenting Support go to www.sloalpha.org or call (805) 541-3367

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