If you’re pregnant or the mother of a child under the age of 2, you may be interested in a comprehensive set of home visiting services provided by two programs administered by The Foundation for Delaware County: Healthy Start and the Nurse-Family Partnership.
Using two different approaches, the programs focus on supporting mothers to ensure healthy pregnancies and good parenting while promoting breastfeeding, birth planning, healthy relationships and positive health practices. Healthy Start uses telephonic and home visiting case managers to provide care coordination and education; the Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) uses registered nurses who make regular home visits. Both programs have a national presence.
NFP enrolls pregnant mothers before the 28th week of pregnancy with the objective of preparing them physically for a healthy pregnancy and birth. Home visits, which typically last about an hour, occur weekly at first and then every other week until the baby is born. For six weeks following the birth, the nurses return to weekly visits, and then visit every other week until the infant is 2 years old.
Before birth, the nurses pay close attention to the health of the mother. “After birth, we take a look at the parent-child interaction,” says Amy Martin, an NFP supervisor. “We try very much to highlight the mom’s strength and boost her in her own confidence.” Martin says NFP also helps mothers set goals for self-sufficiency and provides them with the skills and confidence to go back to school or find a job.
The program is available only to first-time mothers. Research has found that first-time mothers are very impressionable and vulnerable, tending to make them open to seeking and learning new information.
Healthy Start does not limit its services to first-time mothers. The program enrolls pregnant women and families with babies up to 2 years old. Trained case managers provide education and information about the importance of a healthy pregnancy, reproductive life planning, breast feeding, early childhood growth and development, safe sleep, life skills, leadership training and financial literacy. The program’s case managers coordinate care, making sure clients are referred to other services and agencies when necessary. For example, if mothers need assistance with legal issues, Healthy Start can make that referral.
“An asset to both programs is our medical legal partnership program,” says Akesha Gainer, Healthy Start case manager coordinator. “It provides civil legal services to our participants. Our team of lawyers works with case managers and nurses to address the social determinants of health that could prevent them from having healthy pregnancies and healthy birth outcomes.”
The programs cover different geographic regions. NFP covers the whole county; Healthy Start serves Chester and its contiguous communities, which includes Eddystone, Boothwyn, Upland, Parkside, Chester Township, Trainer, Marcus Hook and Linwood.
Coordination between Healthy Start and NFP is tight. Gainer and Martin say their case workers and nurses work closely to ensure that clients receive the best suite of services. In fact, there is some overlap between the two programs: About 20-25 percent of NFP mothers also participate in Healthy Start.
Overall, NFP serves about 150 families in the county with its five nurse home visitors. Healthy Start currently serves more than 500 women and children in Chester and nearby communities, but has the capacity to serve up to 800 women and children.