Grant doubles reach of effort to help young moms

Ally Martinez was 16 years old when she learned she was pregnant.

During the tough emotional times of preparing to step into the role of being a young mother, one person helped steady her, she said.

She was Trish Dauer, who works for The Nurse-Family Partnership, a program that helps first-time young moms and moms-to-be throughout Snohomish County.

The program that provides one-on-one support to mothers age 21 and younger will soon be able to serve more than twice as many young women in Snohomish County.

Currently, 70 moms are enrolled, but by this fall, the program with a boost in new grants will be able to serve 150 moms ages 21 or younger who has been pregnant for 24 weeks or less.

Martinez said her talks with Dauer reassured her and helped her set goals for her future.

“There were some really depressing moments for me,” Martinez said. “She got me through all of it.

Her daughter, Kelly Monroy-Martinez, was born on Aug. 8. After the birth, Martinez zipped through the requirements for the General Educational Development program in three months.

Dauer had a consistent message for Martinez. “She was always telling me things would get better once my daughter was here,” she said. “I’m so grateful for having her.”

Last month, Martinez enrolled at Edmonds Community College, with the goal of becoming a certified nursing assistant. She hopes to earn degrees as a licensed practical nurse and a registered nurse.

Through the Nurse-Family Partnership, each of the young moms in the program is matched with a nurse who makes home visits as frequently as once a week, said Terry Clark, executive director at Little Red Schoolhouse, which oversees the program.

The program has recently received several grants from Snohomish County sources. The money will pay for more services. They include a $246,000 annual grant for two years from the Verdant Health Commission, based in Lynnwood, and $386,000 from the county’s 1/10th of 1 percent tax to benefit drug, alcohol and mental-health programs.

The program is limited to women who are pregnant with their first child. It targets but is not limited to low-income women.

The typical mom in the program is 17 years old. Young moms can contact Little Red Schoolhouse if they’re interested in participating.

The goals of the Nurse-Family Partnership include helping young mothers raise healthy babies and ensuring their infants are progressing normally, she said.

The moms also get special attention on their career goals, such as helping them find the schooling or training they need to pursue a profession.

“We’re helping them focus on their own future and being able to provide the kind of life they want for their babies,” Clark said.

Initially, a nurse conducts basic tests to help ensure a healthy delivery, such as blood pressure checks and monitoring of the mother’s weight. The nurse confirms that the mom has found a physician who can do more comprehensive monitoring of both the mother and baby.

“They talk about … everything they need to know for a healthy baby,” Clark said.

Some of the young moms have said that the program provides support they aren’t getting from family members or friends, Clark said.

The young women sometimes say their parents are very unhappy about the pregnancy. The visiting nurse sometimes is one person the young mom can talk to and get good advice on having a healthy birth and tips on how to be a good parent, she said.

“There’s a moment in time when moms are really inspired to make changes because of this incredible potential of their baby,” Clark said.

The Nurse Family Partnership is part of a national effort to help young moms become good parents. It’s based on more than three decades of research that shows which steps can be taken to help ensure healthy deliveries and home environments.

Researchers have found that moms who participate in the program are less likely to be involved with gangs, drugs, alcohol, child abuse or neglect and other legal issues.

Little Red Schoolhouse, a Snohomish County nonprofit, took over the program in October from the Snohomish Health District.

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or salyer@heraldnet.com

Help for young moms

The Nurse-Family Partnership, a free program to help moms 21 and younger during their first pregnancy and in their baby’s first two years of life, is now expanding. Moms interested in joining the program should call the Lynnwood office of Little Red Schoolhouse at 425-775-6070.

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