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Mother’s Day Issue

#VBGIVESBACK: Good+ & Nurse Family Partnership

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First comes love, then comes marriage. Then comes the baby and... the baby registry. For most new moms, that's how the story goes. It's a narrative many of us take for granted. Ditto hand-me-downs from family and friends, a virtual rite of passage. 

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But not all of us are that lucky. Diapers, cribs, onesies and wipes in the home are not a given. 

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Enter Nurse-Family Partnership, which pairs specially trained nurses with low-income, first-time moms-to-be to transform their lives and create a better future for both themselves and their babies. It’s one of Good+Foundation's longtime partner programs. NFP brings the talent and the services; Good+, those desperately needed newborn essentials. Since teaming up 15 years ago, the latter has donated over two million children’s products to the former, and in doing so, supported over 84,000 families across the U.S. 

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“The nonprofit, which builds a long-term relationship with the families, is a wonderful example of the types of programs we like to work with,” says Laurel Parker West, Vice President of National Programs and Operations at Good+. “Sometimes you need a Band-Aid, but the root cause is not going to heal if you’re putting Band-Aids on everything. NFP works to break the cycle of poverty.” 

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Here, Parker West shares more about the organization, one that’s particularly close to the Veronicas—that’s them, below, at a Good+ event with NFP in 2014. 

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Q&A

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Tell us about the origins of Nurse-Family Partnership
It was founded in 1996 by David Olds, an academic, who didn't understand why in the U.S. we weren't able to provide high-quality prenatal care and why we have the infant mortality rates we do. So he launched NFP, pairing nurses with first-time, low-income moms, starting when the mother is around five months pregnant. It’s a long-term nursing, coaching, mentoring model, with regular visits until the baby turns two. Many of these young moms don’t necessarily come from a loving, supportive environment themselves and, in many cases, the nurse home visitor is the only guidance they are getting for both the health of the baby and themselves. And it’s all free; there’s no co-pay.

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And the mission?
NFP works to break the cycle of poverty. When someone’s about to have a baby—that’s a big moment when your life could potentially change course. The data shows us it’s working. The kids who had a nurse home visitor when they were babies are doing better in school. Their reading levels are higher. They have fewer mental health issues, and are even doing better on physical health. It’s astounding.

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How does Good+ fit into this?
We work with the nurses to provide all the essentials that a new parent might need—like a hospital go bag with a nice gown, a pack of newborn diapers, wipes, lotions for mom… You know, for many mothers, there’s no baby shower, there’s no celebration. What the nurse brings from Good+ is the baby shower.

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Any stories you can share?
One of our participating moms was living in a shelter. When the baby was around seven months, the nurse noticed she was still breastfeeding and not moving onto solids and working on fine motor skills, like picking up Cheerios. The mom pointed out that she didn’t have a high chair and, if she let her daughter feed herself, she would spill all over the bed—the only place she had. That’s where we came in. The nurse told us this story and we immediately got her one. We really view ourselves as providing the tools so the nurses can support the moms.

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How do these low-income mothers become involved?
NFP is really good with their recruiting. There’s a lot of word of mouth, but hospital providers, nurses, clinics, social workers—they’ll all refer people to the program too.

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Veronica Swanson Beard, left, and Veronica Miele Beard at a Good+ event with Nurse-Family Partnership in 2014

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What other support do these moms receive?
It’s really a full range of services, from prenatal home visits focused on nutrition and overall health to birth plans, baby safety and breastfeeding (we help provide double-electric breast bumps, which can be incredibly expensive). The nurses also help them with career goals, and their hopes and dreams—for example, if they’re going back to school, what are they doing for childcare? These nurses are really acting as social workers. I can tell you that they are some of the most impressive people I’ve ever met. We had one nurse, a single mom herself, who grew up partially homeless and was living in cars while going to nursing school. She ended up working with moms at Rikers and provided unbelievable guidance. They all go through comprehensive NFP training, on everything from identifying domestic violence to how to assess if babies are lagging on developmental markers. One area where NFP is very successful is in helping with postpartum depression—the nurses are trained to identify, respond and refer treatment for these low-income moms who don’t have access to resources, therapeutic or otherwise.

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Does Good+ provide additional training?
We provide training on self-care for nurses—making sure they are taking care of their mental health and processing any sort of secondary trauma they might be experiencing. We also do training on the whole family approach and teach them how to fully engaged dads more in the process.

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What are some of the challenges?
The biggest challenge is economic. It’s hard for these moms to have and get everything they need. That’s where Good+ comes in, but it’s not like we can provide every single diaper, high chair or crib needed. We do our best, but the economic need is huge. Readers can help by donating directly here.

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How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted things?
NFP has pivoted in a really impressive way and moved to an almost completely telehealth model. They’re using FaceTime; they’re using old-fashioned phone calls. And obviously every hospital is overwhelmed right now so having an NFP nurse in their corner makes a difference. One mom was able to get treated for a UTI that would have gone unnoticed if the nurse didn’t guide her through setting up her next hospital appointments. Left untreated, she would have had long-term damage. She has since delivered a healthy baby boy. We heard another story of a nurse who was able to identify, over the phone, that a new mom was starting to experience postpartum depression. She helped her get a referral to a therapist and medication delivery.
The nurses will, however, do emergency home visits where needed, especially where there may be a risk of violence. We’ve heard that they’re getting in by saying, “I have diapers from Good+, why don’t I drop by?” Then they put their masks and gloves on and check in to see how the moms are doing in person.

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