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  • Program helps families through parenthood’s pitfalls and joys

    Rebecca Light was pregnant with her first child in 2020. A single mom. Her own mother had passed away several years earlier. Money was tight. She was worried.

    Where could she turn for help?
    Rebecca Light and son Seneca returned to the Abrams Public Health Center to
    reconnect with the Health Department's Karen Jones at a graduation ceremony
    for participants of the Nurse-Family Partnership Program.

    “I felt pretty lost about pregnancy and about child raising, even though it's something that I've always wanted,” she said.

    And then she found Pima County’s Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) program.

    The grant-funded program serves women who enroll before 28 weeks of pregnancy with their first child. New moms are partnered with their own personal registered nurse who provides education and support.

    NFP nurse Karen Jones connected with Light, day and night, as needed.

    “Having someone I could always reach out to and ask for advice or help, or even just to talk to, that was truly invaluable,” Light said. “It's hard to be a parent at the best of times. During COVID in 2020, and being a single parent, that was really hard.”

    Light, and her son Seneca, now 2, were one of 13 families who graduated from the program last month. The Health Department celebrated the families at its Abrams Public Health Center, providing certificates of completion, a shirt for the toddler, photos and other gifts.
    From left, Olivia Luque, daughter Leilani and partner Juan Ojeda said they appreciated 
    the advice and support they received from the Nurse-Family Partnership with their

    These families enrolled just as the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020. They had one or two in-person visits before having to switch to telehealth visits. 

    “Incredible that they stayed engaged during this difficult pandemic,” said Jessica Dalton, program manager for PCHD’s Nurse-Family Partnership program.

    “These families are in the program for about two-and-a-half years, and throughout that time you learn their family dynamics and environment, which really allows our nurses to design an effective care plan for the family.

    “The best part is seeing the client understand what you are saying and seeing them make those changes in their life. Our clients learn how to be an advocate for themselves and their families. Seeing a client blossom into an incredible mother is so rewarding.”

    Olivia Luque, partner Juan Ojeda and her daughter Leilani were another one of the recent graduating families. Luque also worked with Jones.

    “I had a lot of questions,” Luque said. “Throughout every little developmental stage, sometimes I wouldn’t know what to do. Turning to social media is not a good idea, because there is a lot of shaming on there.

    “So, turning to Karen, I knew I wouldn’t get judged. Not only that, but she would have a lot of resources for me to go to.”

    That’s all part of the program.

    NFP works with the families from pregnancy through the child’s second birthday, providing education on healthy pregnancy and child health and development, while also making referrals to health and human resources. The Nurse-Family Partnership program also helps families with the decision-making process about future pregnancies.

    Those interested in the program can email the NFP program at ParentSupport@pima.gov or call 520-724-9721. PCHD collaborates with two other NFP teams to provide service to all of Pima County.

    More information on the program and how the Pima County Health Department helps new families is at pima.gov/newmoms.

    “Sometimes, especially for single parents, it’s a little bit hard to turn on Instagram (and other social media) and things like that and see people who seem like they are saving money, saving time, saving the world,” Light said. “But at all the times when I felt like I wasn't doing enough, Karen was so encouraging to let me know that I love my son, I care for him, and I spend time with him. It was a huge confidence boost for me.

    “The program was incredibly helpful and nonjudgmental. It made the first two years of being a parent, which are fraught with so much, far more manageable.”
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