Healthy Families Waushara
Becoming a new parent can be an overwhelming and emotional experience. For families living in poverty or facing other hardships, the responsibilities of caring for a newborn can seem almost impossible.
To help alleviate stress and provide support to new parents, Health Families Waushara (HFW) was started in late 2019. The program, which provides voluntary nurse home visiting services to pregnant and parenting mothers until their child is five years old, is co-located with Waushara County’s Birth-Three program, Child Protective Services, Clinical Services Unit and Public Health.
Years of research have shown that the Healthy Families America program promotes economic self-sufficiency, school readiness, and maternal and newborn health while preventing child injury and maltreatment, crime, and domestic abuse.
Eight families are currently participating with four more in the initial stages of program outreach. These families meet weekly with a nurse home visitor at their homes for child development activities, screenings, and hands-on learning about childcare, nutrition, safety, and any area the family chooses.
The HFW program received a boost from a $95,000 grant over three years from the Basic Needs Giving Partnership, which is supported by the U.S. Venture Fund for Basic Needs within the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation, J.J. Keller Foundation, and other community partners.
Shelia Schmidt, the nurse home visitor, says the grant has given her the means to take some of the stress off families by providing necessary items of formula, diapers, wipes and age-appropriate toys at weekly visits.
“I have had numerous parents thank me for bringing them items that they otherwise would have not been able to afford. The grant has allowed me to buy gas cards for families so they could get to doctors’ appointments or get to work when a financial emergency struck their family,” says Schmidt.
For parents and families currently enrolled in the program, one of the greatest benefits has been having someone to talk to and answer questions. Many participants stated they had little or no support from family and friends and having just that one constant support person made them feel like they weren’t alone.
“Shelia (the nurse home visitor) has informed me of other programs for financial assistance, as well as talking through my anxieties as a first-time om…and how to better came for my child one they are here,” says a Healthy Families Waushara participant.
“Healthy Families Waushara helps parents bring out the best in themselves by tapping into the strengths and skills they already have,” says Schmidt.