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The Voice of the Black Community

State & National

Partnership programs guide transition to motherhood
 
Published Tuesday, January 14, 2020
by Yen Duong, N.C. Health News

When Denise Ward first moved to Charlotte in the summer of 2017, she was pregnant, jobless and homeless. She found a landing spot at the Florence Crittenden residential program for homeless pregnant women. Soon after, Ward joined the Nurse-Family Partnership program offered by the community health nonprofit Care Ring.

From that point, until her son turns 2 this month, a nurse from the program meets with her at least monthly to guide her through physical and mental changes of pregnancy, infancy and toddlerhood, support her toward independence, and educate her on parenthood. “I’ve never met anyone that was so caring and so full of help. I can go to her about anything, she’s like a second mother to me,” Ward said of her NFP nurse. “She was always coming around checking on me and my son; she makes you feel like you’re at home, like a mom, very nurturing.”

Last fall, Care Ring, which began its NFP program in 2009, won the national “Tenacious Caregiver Award” among NFP network providers from over 633 counties across the United States for operating at full capacity with high nurse and client retention and high graduation rates. Care Ring has provided health services for uninsured and underinsured Mecklenburg residents since 1955.

NFP began spreading from Colorado in 1996 after decades of fine-tuning by its founder, researcher David Olds, according to the program’s website. Every NFP program in the country follows exacting standards and sends newly hired nurses to Denver for a week of training to learn the curriculum. In North Carolina, 14 such programs cover 26 counties. Since 2000, NFP has served more than 7,400 families in the state.

Registered nurse Chiquita Reid, who has worked for the program for six years, agrees that the most important part of her job is teaching women to advocate for themselves and their babies. After doing research into disparities in birth outcomes for African American women while earning a master’s degree in nursing, Reid put her research into practice with her job with NFP.

For instance, Reid said that several of her clients had mentioned postpartum depression symptoms to their doctors and ended up getting turned away with “a pamphlet on how to cope with stress.” NFP nurses sit with clients [as they call their regular program participants] and give tips on how to get the care they need. “It doesn’t matter what your socioeconomic background is, you’re still a human being,” Reid said. “You deserve to be heard and you deserve to be listened to.”

In Mecklenburg County, many NFP clients are victims of intimate partner violence, Mullins said. The women range from 14 to 40, with an average age of 21. Finding trusted medical translators for languages such as Vietnamese, Hmong and Sudanese adds another level of complexity to the program, which has one Spanish-speaking nurse among its staff of 11. “Definitely this is my favorite nursing job that I’ve had in my over 10 years of nursing,” said Reid, who cares for 25 to 30 clients at a time. “I get to see you come in pregnant, and I get to see you give birth to a baby and get to see you go through the birthing process of becoming a mother.

“That’s in contrast to hospital-based labor and delivery nursing. They deliver the baby, but then they go home within two days and then I never hear from you again.”

Mullins and Reid both described pregnant women who lived on air mattresses in overcrowded apartments with few ideas about what resources were available to help with their transition to motherhood. After a few months at the residential program with the support of her NFP nurse, Ward found housing and a new job which she still holds.

“I always say, you really don’t know nursing until you do community nursing because it gives you the whole picture,” Reid said. “When you go to the hospital or you work in a doctor’s office all day, all they can see is this patient hasn’t been to any of their appointments and they’re not compliant. But what’s the bigger story? Maybe they had an issue with transportation, maybe they didn’t have child care, it’s deeper than what meets the eye.”

 

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