The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

April 12, 2013

Easter Seals program helps babies, first-time moms

By Lydia Seabol Avant
Associated Press



TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Easter Seals' nurse TeShawn Cabbil Hobson meets with new mother Jessica Scrivner every week, taking measurements and checking the vital signs on Scrivner's newborn baby boy.

Hobson checks Scrivner's blood pressure and talks with her about breast-feeding and infant care.

It's part of a special Nurse-Family Partnership program, one of only two of its kind being provided by Easter Seals in the U.S. to help first-time mothers adjust to caring for an infant.

But for Hobson and Scrivner, the program is so much more. The two have been meeting regularly to discuss parenthood since Scrivner was 13 weeks pregnant.

"I was a labor and delivery nurse for 10 years, so I still get the so-called 'baby love,' " Hobson said. "I've always loved babies and this helps first-time moms to get to learn more about their bodies and their babies. It's almost like a family than work-related."

When Scrivner first became pregnant, she said she faced uncertainty.

"I had never really dealt with newborns before so I didn't know what to expect," Scrivner said, as she cradled her 10-pound, 1-month-old baby boy, Aiden.

"I've learned a lot of things. It's been a really good program and I really enjoy it," she said.

Nurses with the Nurse-Family Partnership program meet anywhere from weekly to bi-weekly or once a month with the expectant or new mother, depending on her stage of pregnancy or the baby's age. They discuss issues such as what to do during pregnancy, labor and delivery, breast-feeding, immunizations and basic infant care. The partnership begins before the 28th week of pregnancy and continues until a child is 2 years old.

"We are seeing changes in people's lives already," said Ronny Johnston, administrator of the Easter Seals of West Alabama. "Our nurses are just having the best time, and are loving what they are doing."

The Nurse Family Partnership is a national program that is funded through a grant from the Alabama Department of Children's Affairs.

Sherri Presley-Dumas, program coordinator, said the evidence-based home visitation model aims to:

Promote healthy pregnancies and better outcomes at delivery.

Increase the economic self-sufficiency of the mother while teaching parenting tools.

Improve the outcomes of low-birth weight babies in Tuscaloosa County and Alabama.

The Nurse-Family Partnership program in Tuscaloosa started enrolling first-time expectant moms in June 2012. Now, there are 25 participants in the program, although there is the capacity to serve up to 75, Presley-Dumas said.

"We can have a referral from any source, as long as the client meets the requirements," Presley-Dumas said.

The first-time mother must be no more than 28 weeks pregnant with her first child and live in Tuscaloosa County. Mothers also have to meet the program's incomes requirements, which is 133 percent or higher of the federal poverty level.

There is no age requirement, Presley-Dumas said. Current clients vary from 15 to 36 years old. Some are working mothers, and others are not.

"We work with what is best for the client," Presley-Dumas said. "If a client works, we can see them anywhere, at a park, at a place of employment, after school, whatever is convenient."

Ultimately, the program aims to help first-time mothers become the best parent they can be, Presley-Dumas said.

"We want to help them continue their education and develop job skills, develop a network for them to help them become better parents and make sure they have access to community services," Presley-Dumas said.

But it's also about developing working relationships with the new moms.

"You develop an attachment because you've been with them from in the womb, through birth and as the babies and toddlers," Presley-Dumas said. "You develop friendships and bonds that a lot of times, the clients know they are a nurse, but they are also a friend."