While fathers make up less than one percent of the primary caregivers enrolled in home visiting programs supported by FL MIECHV, they receive critical education and support needed to be successful parents. Nurse Home Visitor Jordan Matthews shares the story of one father who recently became the first graduate of the Hillsborough Nurse-Family Partnership program. . .
I have been working as a nurse home visitor for NFP for a little over 3 years now. I am used to working one on one with mothers, and I will occasionally have fathers that are eager to participate in home visits. I enrolled Guenby and his girlfriend back in August 2015. I would rarely see Guenby when I first started doing homes visits with the family because he was working full time. I did home visits with mom all through pregnancy, and almost until baby’s first birthday. In December 2016, Guenby called me and told me that his girlfriend had left and he was taking care of the baby by himself. Since mom had been staying home with the baby during the day, he had to take time off from work until he found daycare. While searching for daycare and trying to figure out a work schedule, he was struggling with learning baby’s daily routines. He asked if I could continue to meet with him because he had several questions about what was normal for baby.
When I arrived for our home visit he was anxiously waiting at the door. He had questions about everything from how much she should be eating to how to style her hair. I helped through the various community resources that could provide support. We were able to get his daughter enrolled with Early Head Start so Guenby could go back to working full time. In just a few months Guenby was able to save enough money to move into a bigger apartment. He had set a goal to have a place where his daughter could have her own room and was able to accomplish it. He was providing her daily care by himself while being able to hold down his full-time position. Despite his challenges over the last few months he managed to throw his daughter a beautiful “very pink” first birthday party at their new place. Which of course would have not been complete without her own pink car! I could see how empowered and proud Guenby felt as he shared the pictures from the party with me. He had been able to tackle all the obstacles he had faced in the last few months and was thriving. He continued to meet with me until his daughter’s second birthday. He recently was our first father graduate and was able to attend our NFP graduation in May 2018.
Mark has been an active participant in Parents as Teachers since November of 2017. When the Parent Educator, Mandy McDavid, started working with him, he had just received unsupervised visitations with his daughter twice a week through the Dependency Court system. Mark knew very little about having a daughter, such as the correct way to even change her diaper. He felt that since he was a single father raising a daughter that there was no hope in him getting custody of his child. Parent Educator McDavid and Mark worked hard on establishing bonding and attachment between father and daughter through routine, play, and how he could respond to his daughter’s cues.
After Christmas, Mark was reunified with his daughter and she now lives with him full time. Mark has established childcare for his daughter so he can continue to work and provide for her. The transition period was tough on the child because she was not used to Mark being her full time caregiver. During the transition period, the child regressed in communication and gross motor skills. She would cry and want to be held at childcare and at home constantly. During this time Parent Educator McDavid coordinated with other agencies working with Mark to focus on these areas of concern. Parent Educator McDavid provided Mark with engaging activities and parent handouts to facilitate his involvement with his daughter in reaching her milestones.
Fast forwarding to today, the child is happy and full of energy. She has started walking independently and enjoys having conversations with her father and those around her. She is progressing on track with all of her milestones with her father’s support. Mark and Parent Educator McDavid continue to work closely together for the benefit of the family. Congratulations to Mark and his daughter as they continue to learn and grow!
Hi my name is Denise Mills,
I would like to share with you some of the amazing things that the Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition is doing. The Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition is working very hard to improve breastfeeding initiation and duration rates within the Jacksonville Nurse Family Partnership Program by implementing strategies through the Home Visiting Collaborative Improvement and Innovation Network. While breastfeeding initiation rates are high in the region and program, duration rates decrease sharply at six months.
Prior to working at the Coalition, I was a participant in the Nurse Family Partnership (NFP) program. NFP is a program for first time parents where a nurse comes to visit you in your home. This home visitor helps you get prepared to be a parent. Your home visitor nurse stays with you until your child is 2 years old.
While I was a participant in the NFP program I made a choice to breastfeed my son. My nurse home visitor Janet McDonald gave me information one visit about breastfeeding and I knew that I had to try it. I breastfed my son for 12 months and I have to say I truly loved it. Although it wasn’t easy in the beginning I knew that I was giving my son the best gift I could ever give him. After my experience with breastfeeding I told anyone I could about it. I was so thankful to the NFP program and the Coalition that they truly became part of my life. I never wanted to leave this program but knew one day that day would come and another mom would learn everything that I did.
I was very pleased one day to know that I wasn’t the only mom that wished the NFP program last longer. The Coalition and the Jacksonville NFP program granted our wish. They allowed us to put together a NFP support group. In this group we give all NFP participants (graduates and current) a chance to get together and get to know each other. This group is still fairly new but we are growing and we hope to have all participants come to the once a month meetings and also apart our NFP Facebook page Facebook.com/groups/nursefamilypartnership. We have moms days out and play dates with the kids. We are trying to get a daddy’s group together where the graduated dads will mentor the new dads in the group. I am very thankful to the Northeast Florida Healthy Coalition for this platform that they have allowed us to have.
Very recently The Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition has given me another amazing opportunity. I am now working with the Coalition on a grant to increase breastfeeding initiation and duration through a grant with the National Association of City and County Health Officials (NACCHO) as a peer breastfeeding counselor. I have been trained as a peer breast feeding counselor and now I have breastfeeding support groups for pregnant and breastfeeding moms. This program works hand in hand with our NFP program by referring NFP clients at 33 weeks that show interest in Breastfeeding to me for breastfeeding support. We are also working on putting pumping stations in two local high schools. I get to share my story to so many now and I just hope that I can make a difference in one person’s life.
By Beth Reese Cavey, published in Jacksonville Times-Union, February 16, 2015.
When Ti’Ricka Beckham became pregnant as a high school junior, she pondered dropping out.
Despite her dreams of college and a career, the prospect of being a pregnant, unmarried high school senior was daunting, she said.
But Ti’Ricka decided to stay in school after being referred to the Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition Nurse Family Partnership, which provides high-risk, first-time mothers with intensive case management and home visits from pregnancy until the baby turns 2.
Now 18, Ti’Ricka gave birth Dec. 17 to a healthy daughter, Saige, who is growing right on schedule. The new mother is on track to graduate from Andrew Jackson High School in June with a Take Stock in Children-sponsored college scholarship and plans to attend the University of North Florida.
“I would have talked myself into dropping out. This made me see a different side of things,” she said. “I’m getting an education to be a great mom.”
Launched in 2012, the Nurse Family Partnership currently provides services to 100 high-risk, first-time mothers in the New Town Success Zone and two other neighborhoods. The Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition administers the program, with four specially trained nurses from the Florida Department of Health in Duval County and UF Health Jacksonville.
The model has been shown to have a positive impact on maternal and child health, child maltreatment, child development, school readiness, family socioeconomic status and injuries, crime and domestic violence, according to the Healthy Start Coalition. Also, a long-term study recently published in the JAMA Pediatrics journal showed participants are less likely to experience child and maternal mortality.
“This is an amazing program with amazing outcomes. These are the good stories we rarely hear about,” said Jennifer Gornto, executive director of the Healthy Start Coalition.
The key is the home visits and the relationships they build between client and nurse.
Every two weeks, registered nurse specialist Bridgers Smith comes to Ti’Ricka’s North Jacksonville home. Early on, Smith taught her what to expect during pregnancy and before and after childbirth. Then she moved on to post-pregnancy topics such as breast feeding, diaper changing and pacifiers and used a “teaching doll” named Jeremiah to demonstrate. Since Saige’s arrival, Smith also weighs the baby on every visit and checks other developmental progress.
Along the way, Smith answered Ti’Ricka’s questions, soothed her worries and debunked the old wives’ tales she had heard about pregnancy and child care.
“Such a blessing. It teaches you it’s OK not to know everything,” the new mother said. “Anytime I was unsure about something, she kept me on the right track.”
Ti’Ricka also shares her newfound child-care knowledge with Saige’s father, boyfriend Gabriel Williams, 20, and her friends and family.
That multiplier effect, Smith said, will benefit many other young mothers and babies. “She has access to teens I will never see,” Smith said. “She has information and education to guide and steer them.”
“I don’t know what I would have done without you.” Those words were spoken by Oneida, a 17 year old, first-time parent who enrolled in the program at age 16 when she was eight weeks pregnant. During eight months of home visits, she was an active and interested participant. Her primary goal was to finish her education. During her pregnancy, Oneida and her nurse home visitor worked on strategies to keep herself healthy and relaxed by learning more about the pregnancy process and ways to reduce stress. In later visits, Oneida learned about developmental milestones and ways to calm a baby. At each visit, the nurse assessed her for any physical concerns, discomforts, changes in her environment, or coping with the pregnancy. In turn, Oneida followed through on guidance and referrals. On October 31, 2012, Oneida delivered a healthy, 9 lb., 2 oz. baby boy. Since then, she and the nurse have discussed the importance of proper nutrition, sleep position, well-baby visits, immunization schedule and family planning. Oneida kept her postpartum appointment and has chosen a method of family planning after reviewing several options with the nurse. While on maternity leave with no income, Oneida started experiencing some financial difficulties. She shared her financial difficulties with her nurse home visitor, who referred her to local financial assistance office. Oneida was planning to return to work but was informed that the company that employed her was closing. Oneida wanted to start looking for job and she requested the assistance of the nurse in putting together a resume. The nurse discussed all the information needed for a resume and provided guidance and assistance. Oneidas utilized the resume and successfully found new employment. The client expressed gratitude for participating in NFP program and also for having a nurse home visitor who has always been very helpful.
My PAT+ mentor Alyssa asked me if I wanted to share my story and I was absolutely thrilled to if it meant I could somehow inspire one other person…I had my son Lucas on May 31st of 2012 and it was the best day of my life. Just being able to hold this little bundle of love after carrying him for 10 months, worrying about if I had stocked up enough diapers and if he had enough clothes. It had all melted away. When I brought him home I was so scared. Here I was a 23 year old single mother of a beautiful baby boy. The first few weeks were very stressful between trying to breast feed getting up at night every 2 hours…running on 0 energy, worried if I was changing his diaper right. Now Lucas is 10 months old. I am enrolled in school full time. I would never have thought I’d be going to school with an infant while being a single parent but I wouldn’t change a thing. Lucas is the world to me. I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have Alyssa to listen to me when no one else would. Or bounce ideas off of. Or even email her in the middle of the night when things are bothering me. I am so thankful I have someone like her in my life. She has helped me through so much. I have a happy healthy little boy that keeps me motivated. I would really suggest this program to anyone like myself or even to a woman that has a happy home life because having a child is never easy. And it’s always nice to have someone to talk to reassure you that you are doing a great job.
On July 24, 2013, a Family Support Worker Supervisor (FSWS) met with a determined young lady who was unemployed, faced homelessness, had little support, and was 21 weeks pregnant with her second child. The FSWS soon learned that the expectant mother had suffered from mental health complications; recently had her first child removed from her care, and had a history of using substances. The father of the baby was incarcerated.
After learning about the benefits of Healthy Families, she signed into the program with her assigned Family Support Worker (FSW), Danielle Byers. The FSW began to educate her on maternal health and the implications of using tobacco, drugs, and alcohol while pregnant. The participant vowed not to use substances such as tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs, because she wanted her baby to be healthy. She realized that she had to make some serious changes in her life. She learned the importance of living in a stable in environment when her baby is born; therefore she decided to move into the paternal grandparents’ home. As the time got closer to the her baby’s due date, the FSW educated the participant on the benefits of breastfeeding, providing a safe place for her baby to sleep, and how to cope with her baby’s crying. The FSW also went down a checklist to ensure the she had all the necessities for a sweet, newborn baby.
The participant gave birth in December 2013, and began to breastfeed her baby right away. Beneficially, she continues to breastfed the child who is now five months old. Both mom and baby continue to live in a stable, nurturing home with the paternal grandparents. The participant has secured child care for her daughter, while she works part-time. Proudly, this mother is able to say that she has not used any substances such as alcohol or illicit drugs, and does not smoke or use tobacco.
We celebrate all the accomplishments she has made towards self-sufficiency, using activities that promote positive parent/child interaction, and ensuring that her baby is up-to-date with immunizations and well-baby checks.
Reggie and his girlfriend were enrolled in the PAT+ program in May of 2012 when the family was referred for services by Bayfront Baby Place Hospital. The child and the mother tested positive to un-prescribed Methadone at delivery. The parents were living in a local motel at time of enrollment and Reggie was working as a short order cook at a local restaurant. Both parents have an extensive substance abuse history along with criminal records.
The mother was the primary caregiver for the baby until she was found at a local drug house with the baby while Reggie was working to support the family. At this time he called the police and the mother was ordered out of the home.
Reggie took on the responsibility of caring for the baby who was two weeks old at the time and taking anti-seizure medications twice a day. Due to lack of childcare, he lost his employment of two years and was threatened with homelessness and losing custody of his only child. Case management was provided to support Reggie’s efforts to keep his child while the mother attempted to receive treatment for severe drug addiction. Reggie’s only support system was his mother who died suddenly from a massive heart attack in the fall of 2012; no other support was available to this family.
The PAT+ program was instrumental in assisting with resources as well as private donations to keep the family in a motel until they obtained stable living arrangements. The program also provided the family with linkage to programs that provided daycare as well as the deposit for an apartment and electrical services. Bus passes, baby items, home goods, education, case management and a solid support system provided Reggie with the opportunity to put his best efforts forward and keep his child out of the legal system. Reggie maintained employment and a stable home environment for his child, but the mother continued to struggle with addiction and mental health issues.
The child has a solid bond with his father, and Reggie has actively participated in the PAT curriculum, learning about the proper development of his child. The child did very well, and was on target with his developmental milestones.
Despite these efforts, in the fall of 2013 the parents were involved in a domestic dispute triggered by mother’s continued substance abuse and untreated mental health issues. The child was removed and placed in foster care. Currently Reggie is working toward reunification with his son and receiving counseling for co-dependency issues with the licensed PAT+ therapist while continuing to receive support and education from his Parent Educator.