Anna’s Postpartum Depression Story
Anna was so excited to have her baby. Her friends celebrated her first pregnancy by giving her a lavish shower full of cute baby clothes, blankets, diapers, and many other necessities. At the shower, there were lots of smiles and “awes” from all at her party. Two weeks later, Anna gave birth to an 8-pound beautiful, healthy baby.
Within days after coming home, Anna’s world collapsed and tossed her into a sea of confusion, pain, and depression. She felt worried and hopeless and had a hard time bonding with her baby. These feelings left Anna terrified for herself and baby. Anna was experiencing postpartum depression.
She was not prepared for what was happening to her. Throughout her prenatal care, Anna’s health care providers, birthing class specialists, and obstetricians had shared about the joys of being a new mother and had never talked about postpartum depression and the symptoms she might experience. When symptoms did occur, Anna was taken by complete surprise; she had no clue that she was the one out of five mothers whose life would be impacted by Postpartum Depression.
What is Postpartum Depression (PPD)?
Women who have PPD suddenly experience depression while challenged with the overwhelming demands of caring for a newborn baby and while recovering from childbirth. The new mother can experience up to five Major Depressive Disorder symptoms that are present nearly every day. She may suddenly experience many of the following symptoms:
- Lack of interest or pleasure in all or most activities
- Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt
- Recurrent thoughts of death
- Recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan or attempt
- Significant weight gain or loss
- Insomnia or hypersomnia
- Psychomotor agitation or retardation
- Poor concentration
“What makes depression so poignant for postpartum women is childbirth is culturally celebrated, and there is an expectation that new parents, especially mothers, will be joyful as they care for their new baby.”Dr. Walker Karraa, Ph.D., noted author and leader in maternal mental health
The demands of caring for a newborn on a mother are substantial. The demands are often difficult to bear in normal circumstances, and any additional stress, complications, and risk factors exacerbate the disability of the mother to deal with depression symptoms (e.g., overwhelming sadness, disabling tiredness, loss of interest, and difficulty concentrating on even the simplest tasks). New mothers often feel the stigma of suffering from a mental illness, when they had expected to feel total joy and astonishment over their new baby.
Anna reacted exactly as Dr. Karraa describes. She misunderstood her condition and felt the guilt of suffering from a mental illness. It is no wonder that even though Anna knew she wanted to be a good Mother, she resisted getting help.
How Can We Help Mothers like Anna?
Nearly 80% of the 2600 mothers giving birth each year in San Luis Obispo County experience some form of Postpartum Depression— from the mild Baby Blues to the full-blown Postpartum Depression with Anxiety and Panic Disorders. Center for Family Strengthening (CFS) and Pregnancy & Parenting Support of San Luis Obispo County (PPS) have teamed together to promote physical and mental health for mothers, children, and families through their programs and outreach. Their services include:
Postpartumwellness.org—Thanks to the generous financial support provided by First 5 San Luis Obispo County, CFS and PPS have created and maintained a website where prospective, and new parents can connect and learn about symptoms and treatments for Baby Blues, Postpartum Depression, and Anxiety Disorders. The website provides a a 24 hour hotline so mothers can get immediate help.
Pregnancy & Parenting Support is a safe place a mother can turn to receive emotional support, empathy and personable care. Pregnancy and Parenting Support staff is trained to recognize the signs of PPD, to make needs assessments and refer Mothers to mental health counselors as required. The staff empowers mothers, helping them become self-reliant and strong advocates for themselves and their families. In addition to emotional support and counseling referrals for maternal mental health concerns, PPS also provides tangible necessities as needed for the well being of families with children up to age two. PPS is a bilingual and bicultural agency that supports families of all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.
Women in SLO County experiencing any PPD symptoms can call Pregnancy & Parenting Support at 805-541-3367 for free, confidential information and referrals.
Educational Outreach—Postpartum Depression often affects the entire family. Center for Family Strengthening provides extensive educational outreach to the entire SLO County community to create awareness about Postpartum Depression and to promote physical and mental health for mothers, children, and families. CFS is well versed in the network of social services agencies and provides linkages to other agencies to support the new mother and her baby. Through its Parent Connection program, CFS offers parents confidential, one-on-one parent coaching at no cost in English and Spanish. Parents and caregivers needing support can call 805-543-3700 to connect with a parent coach.
CFS and PPS collaborate to bring Maternal Mental Health Support groups in areas of the community that are secluded from the rest of the county. These support groups are designed to help mothers connect with other mothers and with professionals to receive the services and support they need most. Contact Pregnancy & Parenting Support at 805-541-3367 to join a group or refer a mother.
Postpartum Depression is serious and left untreated may cause significant stress and potentially trigger abuse of the newborn baby. A woman cannot “pull herself out of it” any more than she can pull herself out of a heart attack. All symptoms, from the mildest to the most severe are treatable. Most importantly, a woman does not need to suffer through this alone.
You are not alone
You are not to blame
You will get better
There is help!
Women in SLO County experiencing symptoms, partners, and concerned family members can call Pregnancy & Parenting Support at 805-541-3367 for free, confidential information and referrals. Pregnant/postpartum women and their families will be connected with qualified treatment services and accessible health resources as needed.
Approximately 2600 babies are born each year in San Luis Obispo County. Childbirth can be difficult. Maternal Mental Health Disorders are the most common complication of childbirth.
Depression and anxiety affect 1 in 5 pregnant and postpartum women. Postpartum depression may occur immediately after birth or many months later. The longer a depression goes undiagnosed and untreated, the more impact it has on the woman and her family. Postpartum depression often leaves women feeling ashamed, isolated and with overwhelming feelings of guilt.
Risk Factors for Depression – experiences that may put some women at a higher risk for depression include:
- Low social support.
- Difficulty getting pregnant.
- Being a mom to multiples, like twins, or triplets.
- Losing a baby.
- Being a teen mom.
- Preterm (before 37 weeks) labor and delivery.
- Having a baby with a birth defect or disability.
- Pregnancy and birth complications.
- Having a baby or infant who has been hospitalized.
Some women with postpartum emotional disorders recover without incident. Many others need professional help. Postpartum emotional problems are physical and real. A woman can not “pull herself out of it” any more than she can pull herself out of a heart attack.
Depression can also occur among women with a healthy pregnancy and birth. Fathers and partners are effected as well and are more likely to become depressed before or after baby’s birth if the moms were also afflicted. In additional to the resources below fathers and partners can find support through Parent Connection of SLO County, including support groups and parent coaching.
A woman experiencing any symptoms can call our Support Line 805-541-3367 for free confidential information and referrals in English and Spanish. All the symptoms, from the mildest to the most severe are temporary and treatable. Treatment varies, depending on the severity of the symptoms. For more information visit our Pregnancy & Postpartum Depression program page or http://postpartumwellness.org. If you need Support Line brochures in English or Spanish, please contact the CFS office at 805-543-6216.
Please join us for the 1st Annual Children’s Memorial Flag Raising Ceremony in San Luis Obispo County.
The Department of Social Services in collaboration with the California Office of Child Abuse Prevention and Center for Family Strengthening will be participating in a statewide raising of the Children’s Memorial Flag to honor young lives lost due to senseless violence. We gather as a community in April for National Child Abuse Prevention Month to acknowledge the importance of working together to prevent child maltreatment.
Date/Time: Friday, April 26, 2019 at 1:30 pm
Location: Courthouse (Flag Pole and Plaza area). 1050 Monterey St. San Luis Obispo, CA 93408
For questions, please contact Sandra Jimenez at 805-781-1879 or via E-mail at email@example.com.
Please join Center for Family Strengthening and Cuesta College Early Childhood Education for the Annual Child Abuse Prevention Academy.
We gather every April in honor of National Child Abuse Prevention Month to acknowledge the importance of working together to prevent child abuse and neglect, and to promote the social and emotional well-being of children and families in San Luis Obispo County.
Martha’s Place Gives Children who Suffer from Prenatal Substance Exposure and Early Childhood Trauma a Chance to Thrive and to Reach their Full Potential.
A research study known as the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACEs) shows that traumatic experiences in childhood including divorce, domestic violence, abuse and neglect are associated with a greater rate of negative health outcomes later in life, including drug addiction, mental illness, chronic health conditions and even early death. (See the ACEs Study by Kaiser Permanente.) The term “complex trauma” may be used to describe both children’s exposure to multiple traumatic events as well as the long-term effects of this exposure.
In addition to children who have experienced trauma, infants who have been prenatally exposed to alcohol and/or other substances are also vulnerable to experiencing challenges over the course of their life. In 2003, the Public Health Assessment Survey conducted by Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo County reported that there were significantly higher incidences of substance abuse among pregnant women on the Central Coast compared to national average:42% screened positive for drug use; 18% of mothers reported smoking during pregnancy; 35% endorsed using alcohol at some point in their pregnancy. We know that use of these substances impacts the development of the fetus and poses health and developmental threats to the child. Due to these findings, it was deemed to be critical in our community to assess these exposed infants as early as birth and provide targeted early intervention treatment up to five years of age to mediate negative health outcomes to the fullest extent possible.
Martha’s Place was named in honor of Martha Johnston great-granddaughter of Shirley Bianchi, whose life, though tragically short, exemplifies both the damage alcohol and drugs can have on children as well as the amazing resiliency of youth when help is provided. We know that brain development is extremely vulnerable during the first five years of life; and therefore it is crucial that children be evaluated medically, developmentally, socially and emotionally beginning as early as possible to identify any areas of concern and address these concerns before they become more challenging and solidified issues.
Martha’s Place is devoted to helping children in our community to reach their full potential, to be loved, to be emotionally well developed and to enter school ready and able to learn. Martha’s Place helps give our most vulnerable young children a voice and a safe, stable environment in which to thrive. It is crucial that Martha’s Place continue to serve children who have this very critical need.
The clinical staff at Martha’s Place including pediatricians, mental health therapists and public health nurses receive specialized training on detecting signs of trauma in infants and toddlers and are knowledgeable in the wide-range of resources in our community dedicated to supporting children and their families. Dr. Nisha Abdul Cader, conducts the specialized pediatric exams at Martha’s Place. She is also the Medical Director for the Suspected Abuse Response Team and serves as the supervising physician at the Juvenile Service Center for the County of San Luis Obispo. As a medical student and pediatric resident at Harbor-UCLA, Dr. Abdul Cader co-founded the UMMA Community Clinic in South Central Los Angeles and is Board Certified in General and Child Abuse Pediatrics. Dr. Abdul Cader frequently lectures locally and throughout the state on prenatal substance exposure evaluation and treatment, as well as on topics concerning child maltreatment.
Today Martha’s Place provides developmentally appropriate, evidence-based services to over 300 children each year. The clinic follows the SART Model of treatment—Screening, Assessment, Referral and Treatment—created by Dr. Ira Chasnoff in Chicago.
Developmental Screening ideally takes place in the community setting, such as by a family’s primary pediatric provider or in a preschool program. At Martha’s Place, screening tools include Ages and Stages Questionnaires and Child Behavior Checklists, through CHADIS, a web-based diagnostic, management, and tracking tool designed to assist professionals in efficiently addressing parents’ concerns about their child’s behavior and development. There are also screening tools for sensory processing differences, such as hypersensitivity to sound, touch, or taste, that can be caused by prenatal substance exposure and early childhood trauma.
In the Assessment phase, the state of the child’s physical and mental health is determined during the intake process. The mental health assessment includes: a comprehensive psycho-social history, observation conducted by a therapist and a child/adolescent needs and strengths (CANS) assessment. The specialized pediatric assessment includes: an in-depth review of the child’s medical history; caregiver interview; a physical growth and development evaluation; and, observations of physical and behavioral signs/symptoms of fetal alcohol/drug exposure and complex trauma.
Following these assessments, the family is provided with referrals to support their child’s identified needs. Referrals include additional specialized medical assessments, such as neurology or hearing evaluations, developmental services, parenting groups, and special education local plan area (SELPA) to advocate for services and accommodations through the school district. Community-based organizations, such as Family Resource Centers, often provide additional services to help families meet their basic needs such as housing, food, transportation and clothing that may be impacting the family’s ability to fully participate in services.
Finally, treatment recommendations are provided to the family, which may include: individual play therapy to process trauma, family therapy to develop secure attachments with caregivers, occupational therapy, and on occasion, medication management. This treatment can be provided at Martha’s Place, by contracted providers in the community or at other County behavioral health clinics closer to the family’s home.
The Role of Attachment in a Child’s Development
Attachment is the deep and enduring connection that is established between a child and caregiver in the first several years of life. This relationship profoundly influences every aspect of a child’s development. A child who has experienced a disrupted attachment/trauma can present with anger, temper tantrums, aggressive behavior, anxiety, withdrawn behavior, sleep and/or eating problems. Their development can be delayed in language, coordination, balance, sensory responsiveness, cognitive functioning and they may have difficulties in processing new information. They also often exhibit poor social and emotional skills and have challenges in reading social cues. Frequently, there is a strong need for control and low self-esteem.
The focus of the team at Martha’s Place is to improve the child’s ability to attach in a healthy way with caregivers—a secure attachment relationship is the primary protective factor in minimizing the negative effects of trauma on the child.
Healthy attachment includes learning basic trust and reciprocity, the child exploring their environment with feelings of safety and security and the ability to co-regulate impulses and emotions. Healthy attachment creates the formation of identity-including a sense of competency, self-worth, and a balance between autonomy and dependency. Importantly, it provides the child the opportunity to form a prosocial moral framework including empathy, compassion, and conscience. It generates a core belief system and provides a defense against stress and trauma.
Martha’s Place Success in Children recovering from Trauma in San Luis Obispo County
Martha’s Place has seen significant positive changes in the lives of children who have been prenatally exposed to substances and/or trauma. Outcome data from 2017 compiled at Martha’s Place indicates that the children served experience a significant reduction in aggressive behaviors as well as improvements in attachment and in sleep. Two families who received services at Martha’s Place agreed to share their experiences:
“When my family was considering moving out of the area, the number one reason we stayed was because of Martha’s Place and the key services it provided our child. Our son is a totally different child since beginning treatment at Martha’s Place. He no longer exhibits continuous meltdowns and his mood has evened out. Medication with therapy has allowed him to be able to engage more appropriately and benefit from interventions”.
“We have received services at Martha’s Place for 3 years and are so pleased with the great progress the therapist achieved with our daughter in helping to alleviate her anxiety and prepare her for elementary school. The therapist, and other experienced professionals, provided guidance to the entire family with parenting skills and support. The pediatrician is a valuable ally throughout our daughter’s treatment program and the rest of the staff at Martha’s Place are excellent. We cherish each and every visit.”
For many families, Martha’s Place is the most important organization within the community providing mental health services that would otherwise be inaccessible or cost prohibitive.
Model of Care Partners Oversight Committee of Martha’s Place (MoCPOC)
MoCPOC, chaired by Mary Bianchi, Aunt of Martha Johnston, seeks to leverage community resources in an open format that informs all partners on the current needs of Martha’s Place and to stimulates ideas, discussion and solutions to ensure children’s needs are being met through the System of Care. MoCPOC is made up of representatives from agencies and individuals including: Center for Family Strengthening, SLO County Child Welfare Services, SLO County Health Agency, SELPA, Community Action Partnership of SLO County, and County Supervisor Bruce Gibson.
MoCPOC’s Vision is for the community of San Luis Obispo to ensure all children will receive any interventions, treatment and support they may need to reach their highest level of growth and development; live safely in their homes, succeed in school, have meaningful friendships, grow up healthy, and become resilient citizens of our community.
A special message from Mary Bianchi:
Please contribute to the Friends of Martha’s Place Fund. Contact Center for Family Strengthening at 805 543-6216 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. All contributions are tax deductible.
Martha’s Place Assessment and Treatment Team Includes:
Program Supervisor: Katie Cohen, LMFT, PsyD
Mental Health Therapists: Casey Roos, LMFT, Jill Anderson, LMFT, Rachel McSpadden-Tarver, LMFT, RPTS
Public Health Nurses: Laura Ottrando, RN, and Betty Wighton, RN
Pediatricians: Nisha Abdul Cader, MD, and Christy Mulkerin, MD
Health Information Technician: Michelle Archer
Reception/Administrative Assistant: Elizabeth Schmidt
Elizabeth Family Advocate: Marivel Flores
Public Health Administrative Assistant: Mary Teresi
We are so pleased to share the accomplishments of the Promotores Collaborative of San Luis Obispo County during the past year.
- Trained Promotores provided over 360 hours at food bank distribution sites around SLO County promoting self-sufficiency in meeting food needs. This project is in collaboration with the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County through a USDA Community Food Project Grant.
- 29 Home Visits were conducted for families with special needs children by Promotores who serve as bilingual coaches/mentors trained to help families understand the multiple resources available. In 2017, the San Luis Obispo County Promotores Collaborative joined Parents Helping Parents to help families improve access to services provided by the Tri-County Regional Center.
- Certified Promotores Mental Health Interpreters served a total of 181 families receiving County Mental Health Services. The Latino Mental Health Enhancement Collaborative compliments the contract Promotores has with the County of San Luis Obispo BehavioralHealth Dept. through the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA).
Center for Family Strengthening (CFS) and The LINK Family Resource Center now work closely together to provide enhanced community services and resources to improve life for overburdened families. This collaboration creates an integrated service system that is accessible and responsive to the needs of our SLO County Community. Both organizations utilize an evidence-based approach and programs that produce highly positive results.
Lisa Fraser serves as the Executive Director of both organizations, making this integration of enhanced services possible and highly cost effective. Administrative and financial responsibilities are combined to be more effective while reducing the overhead of both organizations. Each organization continues to operate with its Board of Directors providing continuity of purpose.
The LINK Family Resource Center is the first line of community-based response to children and their families in need as identified by our public schools. The LINK contracts with schools and the San Luis Obispo County Office of Education to provide trained Family Advocates. Through providing access to resources and helping navigate systems the Advocates ensure families get what they need to raise healthy, thriving children. Link Family Advocates understand the developmental needs of young people and the resources children need to succeed in school.
The LINK Family Advocates access Center for Family Strengthening’s broad base of support programs, Parent Connection, Kidz Toolbox for Personal Safety,Promotores Collaborative of San Luis Obispo County, Dental Care for Kids, and Postpartum Depression Support Services to connect families to these effective resources.
Staff from CFS and The LINK receive ongoing specialized training provided by Strategies 2.0, an initiative funded by the California Office of Child Abuse Prevention (OCAP). OCAP selected Center for Family Strengthening to facilitate the Southern California Learning Community. The LINK Family Advocates, CFS staff and many family serving professionals benefit from the Learning Community network that shares best practices, develops leadership capacity and enhances collaborative approaches for creating healthy families and communities.
CFS and The Link share in the common core language of strengthening families and build protective factors that lead to family health and well-being. Both organizations practice a strengths-based approach, which reinforces parenting skills, increases knowledge of child development stages, and ultimately protects children from neglect and maltreatment behaviors.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Noted Child and Family Therapist, Ron Huxley, LMFT Speaks at Parent Connection Symposium on September 22, 2017.
Understanding Generational Patterns of Parenting
Ron Huxley, noted child and family therapist, speaker and blogger, provides expert insight on the impact of trauma on caregiver/ child relationships as guest lecturer for Center for Family Strengthening Parent Connection Symposium. Parent Connection has partnered with San Luis Coastal Unified Adult School District to provide all Parent Support Professionals a one-day symposium on September 22, 2017, from 9 a.m. through 4 p.m. All Parent Support Professionals are urged to attend. Registration is $55.00 for the one-day session or $85.00 with CEU Certificate with five continuing education contact hours, approved by the National Association of Social Workers (Approval # 886759765-8295). Morning coffee and lunch are included. The symposium will be held at the San Luis Coastal Adult School, Room J2, 1500 Lizzie Street, San Luis Obispo. Register at www.sloparents.org.
The symposium provides an in depth view of the challenges present in generational patterns of parenting.
- The transmission of trauma from one generation to another
- Adult Attachment challenges
- The lifecycle of parenting
- The importance of addressing survival needs and immediate crisis before addressing sensitive, underlying trauma and unexplored issues
Huxley will discuss building healthy communications, modeling characteristics of self-aware adults and provide concrete tools and strategies to build confidence to restore hope for parents/caregivers.
Lisa Fraser, Executive Director of Center for Family Strengthening, said, “I am thrilled a child and family therapist of Ron Huxley’s caliber with a long, successful track record of helping families in need of hope and restoration in San Luis Obispo County has agreed to keynote our Symposium. Huxley’s presentation exemplifies the strength of our symposiums and what they signify for the education of our County’s professionals working with parents and caregivers of children of any age.”
About Parent Connection of San Luis Obispo County
Parent Connection is made possible with funds provided by the Mental Health Services Act (Prevention and Early Intervention) and by the Center for Family Strengthening, a non-profit community organization. To learn more go to http://sloparents.org.
About Center for Family Strengthening (CFS)
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 go to www.cfsslo.org or call 805 543-6216.
About Ron Huxley
Ron Huxley is a dynamic and innovative educator. He travels internationally training parents and professionals on how to find more freedom and joy in their lives. He is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, in private practice, on the Central Coast of California, the USA with almost three decades of experience.
Ron blogs on trauma-informed care and inner healing at RonHuxley.com and he is the author of the book “Love and Limits: Achieving a Balance in Parenting,” 101 Parenting Tools: Building the Family of Your Dreams” and the Ebook “Living Abundantly.” He has appeared on numerous radio and television shows as an expert in the field of mental health and trauma-informed care.