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.