Monday, July 30, 2007

Investing in the Future

A long, long time ago, as part of my Public Health Nursing class, I had to make a home visit with a teen age mother. I first met this young lady and her adorable baby while they were still in the hospital and asked her permission to be a part of my education. She was very sweet and agreed.

My friend (we had to take a partner on all home visits) and I arrived at the tiny, sparsely furnished public housing apartment that she lived in with her baby and the baby's father. The father was at school. She planned to go back to school to get her GED once he was finished and the baby could go to daycare.

We talked about the normal things like lack of sleep, feeding and diapering issues while I did an assessment of the baby and weighed him. He looked great and had gained back over his birth weight. Getting stripped down naked and placed on a scale had the usual effect on the baby, he woke up and was hungry.

Mom went to get a bottle out of the fridge and I noticed that she didn't warm it. I asked her if she didn't want to warm it and she said no, it wasn't formula. With a gut sinking feeling, I asked her what it was.

Orange soda.

Why? Because she thought the baby would be bored eating the same thing for every bottle.

We then had a long conversation about nutrition and essential nutrients and brain development and calories and anything else I could scrape out of my student mind combined with my own mothering experience (which was somewhat lacking as my son was over two years of age when I became a mother).

Here is the thing though. This girl was sincerely trying to do the best for a baby that she loved more than anything in the world. She was determined to be the best possible mother that she could. She admitted and fully understood the challenges facing her as a teen mother.

But she didn't know anything about babies. And as a teen, she was at the height of the adolescent "task" of development which a great part of is separation from and questioning the teachings of her mother in order to develop her unique sense of who she was. So she wasn't on good terms with her mother. She had no good role models and little family or peer support.

She was just doing the best she could.

If only I could have gone to see her once a week or so for the next two years. What if she had an emotionally neutral person who she could count on for advice and guidance. Who could teach her about the changing nutritional needs of her baby, who could guide her through the developmental stages of infancy, who could show her how to teach her baby, who could be a lookout for possible abuse against her or her baby.

What a good start that baby would have! What a confidence booster it would be to the mother to have the skills she needs to do what she wants to do: provide for her baby.

And long term home visits by nurses have been proven to reduce the needs for social services in the future.

Another reason why I like Barack Obama. He gets this. From his website:

Support Parents with Young Children
Barack Obama would expand the highly-successful Nurse-Family Partnership to all low-income, first-time mothers. The Nurse-Family Partnership provides home visits by trained registered nurses to low-income expectant mothers and their families. The trained nurses use proven methods to help improve the mental and physical health of the family by providing counseling on substance abuse, creating and achieving personal goals, and effective methods of nurturing children. Proven benefits of these types of programs include improved women's prenatal health, a reduction in childhood injuries, fewer unintended subsequent pregnancies, increased father involvement and women's employment, reduced use of welfare and food stamps, and increased children's school readiness. Researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis concluded that these programs produced an average of five dollars in savings for every dollar invested and produced more than $28,000 in net savings for every high-risk family enrolled in the program. The Obama plan would assist approximately 570,000 first-time mothers each year.

Loki sez: This isn't done? But, I thought America loved its children!


pogren said...

When my grandson was 4 years old, his mom,dad and baby sister were leaving a typical small town festival at a was the end of a long hot day and he witnessed some parents who had run out of patience and said to his mom, "mom don't all parents love their children?" What a heartbreaking question from a 4 year old precious, sensitive, little boy. Pam from South Bend

jaz said...

We love the idea of being a country that cares for its children.