Young mothers are sharing stories of how their lives have changed for the better thanks to a new nursing program. The Middlesex-London Health Unit has officially launched a Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP). A home-visiting program for young, low-income, first-time mothers, that matches them with a trained public health nurse.
Meet Baby Octavia and her mother, Emily Berryhill
The program allows the nurses to build relationships with the mothers before the child is born and continues through the first few years of the infant’s life. Emily Berryhill is a mother within the program who joined when she was three months pregnant.
Berryhill explains her life before she was matched with the public health nurse, Becky Bohdanowicz. “Before I met Becky, I was in a very bad place. I was in an abusive relationship. It’s hard still going through what has happened, but doing it with her along the way has been so helpful.”
Bohdanowicz visits the home to weigh Octavia and measure her height. She is also a peer support for Berryhill and connects her to helpful community resources she may be unfamiliar with. “Someone like me is on a limited income, so there’s not much money coming in to get bus tickets to go out. So when [Becky] comes over and sits down with me, it’s very beneficial, I don’t have to take [Octavia] everywhere when she’s sleeping,” notes Berryhill.
Berryhill describes Bohdanowicz as her best friend, “I’ve had a great relationship with her, and she’s like a therapist for me. I can sit down and talk to her about anything, whether it’s my work or how I’m feeling that day. It really helps to be able to vent to someone who actually sits and listens.”
Young parents deal with judgement, lack of support, challenges regarding housing, well-paying jobs, mental health, etc. However, these young mothers are motivated and looking for ways to better their lives, so the program builds up experience and knowledge for mothers to become self sufficient.
The program manager, Jennifer Proulx explains that there is no specific method on how the nurses are matched with families, the nurses just take turns. “We do check in to see if the program is working for the family, or if something needs to be modified. We say it’s like a shoe relationship, it has to fit. We haven’t had to make changes, but if it came down to that we are open to that.”
Helping mothers support their babies
The Local Poverty Reduction fund of $351,000 has made this program possible at no cost for young, low income mothers that are having their first child. The Middlesex-London Health Unit has received 58 referrals and currently have 42 women participating ranging in ages 14 to 22.
Women can self refer to the program by calling to the Middlesex-London Health Unit’s health connection, which is (519)-663-5317 ext. 2280. For more general information on the Nursing-Family Partnership (NFP), please visit the Health Unit’s website.