AUSTIN (Nexstar) — A program that provides free medical and emotional support to new mothers is expanding further in Texas.
At a graduation ceremony this week, nearly six-dozen families were honored for completing their involvement in Nurse-Family Partnership, a program that pairs nurses with first-time mothers. To qualify, moms must be less than 28-weeks pregnant, be pregnant for the first time, and be low-income (qualify for Medicaid).
“There’s people that support you even though there’s times where you feel alone, and that no matter what they can guide you through whatever situation there is,” Yessica Garcia, 18, said. Garcia is a first-year student at the University of Texas. She became pregnant while a senior at Lanier High School in Austin, and graduated in the top five percent of her class. She said the program gave her helpful tips.
“(The program) taught me how to properly take care of Jasmin, my daughter,” Garcia said. “They taught me how to change her, taught me how to properly bathe her, and how to feed her…”
Each nurse is assigned to approximately 25 families and stick with each family until the child turns two.
“This program is about empowering moms to be the best moms that they can be,” Garcia’s nurse, Desiree Rodriguez, said. Rodriguez said she develops close connections with the families she interacts with over the two and a half years she works with them.
“I am their nurse, teacher, cheerleader because I am walking alongside them and providing education. Certainly we don’t replace their nurse practitioner, OB/GYN, or midwife,” Rodriguez explained.
“We are their trusted confidant and that’s why I think this program works because they see us as a trusted professional, and so were able to be with them to support them and so to see them graduating and spread their wings it’s awesome,” she added.
The program is free of charge for families, subsidized by federal and state funding, through the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
In 2017, the program received $9.7 million from federal grants and $6.2 million from the State of Texas, totaling $15.9 million. This year, the program picked up $12.8 million from the feds, and $2.8 million from the state. It also received funding from money allotted to the Texas Home Visiting Program. The Nurse-Family Partnership program is expecting to receive the same amount next year that it had this year, though leaders said they plan to ask for an additional $5.5 million to expand to more cities.
“We have about 150 nurses and they serve about 3,000 families a year and so we are in 43 counties and growing,” Kim Griffin, Nurse-Family Parternship’s executive director for Texas, explained. “Our goal is to serve as many families as we can over the next several years.”
Griffin calls it one of the “best-kept secrets in Texas.”
Garcia said some of her classmates have turned to her for advice on breast-feeding, bathing, and how to handle their own medical situations as they enter motherhood.
“It felt good helping other mothers when they didn’t know was going on,” Garcia said. She mentioned she planned to graduate with a degree in communication, and to go to law school.
“We encourage them with self-sufficiency and following their dreams,” Rodriguez said.
The program is currently active in 43 Texas counties.
To find out if you qualify for the program, contact the Nurse-Family Partnership staff by visiting TXNFP.org or by calling or texting 346-201-3730. The Department of Family and Protective Services has additional information on its website.