Every holiday season, one of our favorite things to do at Under the Nile is to choose a notable organization for our “Giving Back Tuesday” donation. This year I consulted with my daughter Sarah, who previously worked for the International Institute of Saint Louis and knows many local organizations in need. We decided Nurses for Newborns would be an amazing organization to support.
Nurses for Newborns began thirty years ago, with a homeless mother, her baby, and a nurse who wanted to ensure they received resources and guidance. The baby (pictured below) is now grown up and a nurse herself (!) which speaks to the incredible influence that special nurse had on her life.
I was able to meet with Anne Volland - the Senior Director of Development at Nurses for Newborns. Anne gave me a guided tour of the facility and it was eye opening to see the amount of work that goes into running an organization like this. Keeping items stocked and providing help to everyone who needs it takes thousands of volunteers, thirty on-staff nurses, and daily donations from the community and beyond.
(1) Every NFN parent receives infant CPR training and a CPR kit. (2) Jackets donated for the upcoming winter.
(1) Nurse Emily helps sort clothing donations. Drop-off donations include necessities like shampoo, soap, formula, and bottles. (2) A group of women from a local church hand make these beautiful blankets with love for every NFN baby.
(1) This wooden diaper bend was built by an Eagle Scout to earn one of his badges. NFN gives out more than 6,000 diapers monthly. (2) Oprah honors Nurses for Newborns founder Sharon Rohrbach with a one million dollar donation, to support her life's work, helping newborns and their families.
After the tour, Anne & I sat down to talk about the organization and services they provide.
- Can you explain what the main objective of Nurses for Newborns is?
Nurses For Newborns is a home visitation program that provides a safety net for families in order to prevent infant mortality, child abuse, and neglect. We send specially trained pediatric nurses to the homes of pregnant women or parents with infants who face medical, social, or environmental risk.
- How did Nurses for Newborns start and how long have they been helping families?
Nurses for Newborns was founded 30 years ago by Nurse Sharon Rohrbach. She worked at St. Anthony’s Medical Center and was frequently called to the emergency room to re-admit babies who had completely preventable illnesses, many times near death. These moms were young, sometimes addicted to drugs, and sometimes in abusive environments.
- How do parents in these under-resourced communities find your organization?
Families can be referred to NFN by local hospitals, clinics, and social service agencies, or come on their own. We also have many families come to us who were referred by friends who used our services before. Most of our families come to us because they do not have enough resources, but we also have families come for other reasons. A family who is new in the country or is isolated from their family also might seek help from our organization. We work to help any family that has a baby and needs support.
- What makes your approach to addressing the problems related to infant death and neglect unique?
Home visits are what make our organization unique. We offer home visits from nurses highly trained in maternal infant health. They perform health assessments, prepare a plan of action for the baby’s caregiver, and educate parents for up to two years after the child’s birth. Community health workers and licensed clinical social workers also support the needs of families. We offer them support and resources.
- What resources do you provide parents facing difficulties postpartum?
Our nurses not only do an assessment on the baby but also on the mom. If the nurse finds that the mom needs additional resources we will help provide her with this. We partner with Children’s Hospital to give out newborn packets. These packets include bonding techniques, how to care for a newborn, and safe sleeping. We give them the tools to be successful with their newborn.
- What kinds of services are available for families who lack resources? What services are available for those who don’t lack resources, but just need help?
We will help anyone who comes through our doors. We are connected with a family in need within 24 hours of receiving a call for help. Once we do our assessment and know what immediate help they are in need of, we start our work. Many families are under extreme stress because they don’t have money for diapers, formula and basic needs. We supply the families with this right away so at least they can feel like they can take care of their baby. In addition, when you don’t have these basic needs, stress escalates, and this is when abuse can occur.
- What kind of racial disparities exist for new parents of color and does NFN address this?
There are many, but health care disparities are at the top of the list. Many of these parents have no health insurance. This is prevalent with our African American and immigrant moms. We help our moms fill out the paperwork to get medicaid for their babies and themselves. Babies are covered up to 2 years and moms up to 6 weeks. So after the 6 weeks we help the mom apply for Medicare.
- How do you gain the trust of the families you want to help?
This is extremely important. We have community health care workers in our organization who are originally from these areas and know how to communicate with our families. If a different language is spoken, we have access to a community health worker who speaks the language, and knows the proper etiquette of that culture. Something as simple as taking off your shoes upon entering a home will gain trust because it shows that we respect their culture.
- How has COVID exacerbated the situation of the families contacting you for help? Has NFN needed to do anything differently in the last couple of years?
We have seen the need for our services rise because of additional stress. We had to change the way we did home visits and conduct assessments outside in the yard instead of in the house. However, all our services are still available and have not changed.
I’m very excited for our Under the Nile community to support this organization! They are doing vital work -- one baby, one family, at a time. For every item that is purchased on “Giving Back Tuesday” we will be donating one item to Nurses for Newborns. You can support Nurses for Newborns directly here. Thank you for your generosity and your support.