There is no shortage of challenges for expectant mothers and new moms but one set of local nurses is not only helping those families with what they need but also helping the mothers find empowerment along the way.
Melissa Richardson not only is a community health nurse but also the supervisor of the Nurse Family Partnership Program from the County of San Luis Obispo Public Health.
"There are so many changes between the time when the baby is born to when they turn two,” she explained.
The three Nurse Home Visiting programs run through the County of San Luis Obispo Public Health Department have supported more than a thousand families through those first tough years of motherhood.
For each of those families, the care provided is tailored to their specific needs.
“It's strength-based and solution-focused. So every client that I've worked with, I always find out where they're at. They may have never held a baby before, they may have helped raise 10 brothers and sisters, cousins, so I always meet them where they're at,” Richardson said.
Multiple programs form the nurse home visiting programs in San Luis Obispo County.
Cherie Fields is the director of all three.
“What we're able to do for families is we see them, we build relationships with them, we're able to connect them with different community agencies, really support our moms and the families for whatever their goals are and what their needs are,” Fields said.
The nurses meet families wherever works best for them. That could mean in the home, at a park or in the San Luis Obispo offices.
The visits go beyond health checkups, including support for anything a family needs.
“I've done everything from helping people learn how to open a bank account, resumes, helping their babies crawl, introducing solid foods, learning about allergies, diapering, and you name it, I've done it,” Richardson said.
Loretta Parish, another nurse with the program, coordinates care for the Early Support Program.
“We really look at the parent's life and maybe what traumas they face in their lives or how they were parented, and then we also look at the resiliency, the things that they really have going for them and that they're strong in and we try to try to work on their strengths, you know, to develop some kind of a service plan with them that's client-centered,” she said.
The programs are funded through county general funds and work with a family from the first stages of pregnancy through early childhood.
It's all free for qualifying families.
“Some of our families have gone on to be nurses. Some of them have gone on to own their own restaurants. They've completed high school if that's been their goal, some of them have gone on to go to college. Some of them have just have decided to get a job or you know, the most, the best impact that they've really done is they learn to empower themselves,” Fields said.
The programs available include Nurse Family Partnership for first-time mothers up to 28 weeks pregnant, Healthy Families America for larger families and children up to 3 months old, and the Early Support Program for those who do not qualify for other programs or did not register in time.
Fields urges anyone who might be interested to get information by giving them a call at (805) 788-2068.
All of these programs are completely voluntary and free for eligible participants. You can find more information and ways to refer yourself or someone else at this link.