Jacqueline Martin works as a Nurse Home Visitor at Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP), a nonprofit organization with sites all across the country. Jacqueline and NFP helped me build a better bond with my son Xavier. They taught me parenting skills like co-parenting, organizing doctor appointments and paperwork, and how to adjust Xavier’s sleep schedule. NFP helped me from the time I was pregnant with Xavier until he turned 2.
Jacqueline has been a great support and brought me clothes, diapers, wipes, and even toys for Xavier. When I had concerns about his social/emotional development, Jacqueline made a referral to early intervention. They explained that Xavier was fine; he just needed more redirection. Jacqueline also taught me about developmental stages that helped me understand how to respond when he cried. Because of her, I am a better mother.
Jacqueline works through the Targeted Citywide Initiative (TCI), run through the Department of Health. They work with parents who are either in foster care, in the shelter system, or incarcerated. These families tend to move around more from borough to borough, so TCI has smaller caseloads that make it easier for nurses to move with their clients.
Joanna Maestre: What does Nurse-Family Partnership do?
Jacqueline Martin: NFP gives first-time parents their own free personal nurse, because we believe that well-supported moms have happier, healthier babies. We work together with the parents to identify the goals that are important to them.
We provide evidence-based health information and connect parents to vetted resources in the community that can support them in reaching their goals. We work on building a secure mother/child bond and teach positive parenting techniques. We talk about the things that are hard about becoming a parent, and we celebrate the wins. It’s a very cool and unique service!
Joanna: What resources do you provide to clients?
Jacqueline: The main resource is the nurse—we all have lots of experience and knowledge about pregnancy, birth, babies, and toddlers. But we also get special training about how to show up for mothers in a way that is supportive and not too judgmental. New parents really need that encouragement, because the learning curve can be steep! We help people sign up for WIC, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children. WIC is a federal assistance program that helps low-income pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and women with children under age 5 pay for their food.
We help connect expecting parents to birth doulas and childbirth classes, learn the basics of infant feeding and newborn care, and find a pediatrician they like. We help them toddler-proof the apartment, get legal support to understand their rights and options when they walk into a job interview, or a hospital, or a homeless shelter. We also help clients with their own education: We help them develop educational goals, connect them to programs and opportunities, and help find childcare they are comfortable with. We support them with things unique to student parents, for example, pumping to keep an adequate milk supply while they’re at school.
Joanna: How long do you stay in the client’s life?
Jacqueline: We provide services from early in the pregnancy until the baby turns 2, but it’s a voluntary service, and people can stop any time they like.
Joanna: When is a client eligible to work with NFP?
Jacqueline: You must be pregnant with your first baby, and you have to sign up before the pregnancy reaches 28 weeks. There is also an income requirement, so if you qualify for WIC or Medicaid, you also qualify for NFP. (See chart below.)
Joanna: What are the benefits of having a nurse from NFP?
Jacqueline: Having a baby is a time of big change, and having consistent professional support helps families make the most of it, even years after the visits end. Research has shown that older children who had an NFP nurse coming to their homes when they were babies ended up having fewer cases of child abuse and neglect, fewer injuries and poisonings, and fewer behavioral problems than kids their age who did not have a nurse.
Joanna: What do you like about your job?
Jacqueline: I like visiting people in their homes because it’s more natural and easy-going than talking in a doctor’s office. When you go to someone’s grandmother’s apartment, or sit with them at an appointment, you get a more detailed view of their strengths and their needs. People feel more comfortable getting healthcare on their own terms, and there’s more time to explore their questions and concerns.
It is also really special to get to stay with your “patient” over such a long period of time—when you work in a doctor’s office or a hospital, you might see someone only once, or maybe a few times in a year. I get to watch you grow into your strength as you become parents, which is really rewarding! Hanging out with so many cute babies is another big perk.
Joanna: What’s hard about your job?
Jacqueline: Sometimes it can be hard to see how many roadblocks young moms face on a daily basis. But on the flip side of that, I get to be their cheerleader and support them to level up and find ways around those roadblocks. If there is no way around the roadblock, I think people appreciate just having another person around to witness their struggle and remind them that their feelings or experiences are valid.
Joanna: How are you adjusting your work now during coronavirus?
Jacqueline: For now, we have stopped doing in-person visits and are working with families from home, using our phones and tablets. People have all the needs they had before, and now they also have new needs because of COVID-19. This is not an easy time to be pregnant or parenting a young child.
We are providing smartphones to young moms who don’t have them, thanks to a partnership with Verizon and Action Technologies Group. We connect clients to phone therapy to deal with the stress of being pregnant or a parent right now, find a testing center if they have COVID symptoms, or apply for unemployment if they lost their jobs.
Where I used to bring handouts, I’m now texting or emailing pictures or PDFs. Where I used to bring baby books, I’m sending people to the children’s section of the e-book database at their public library.
It’s a little hard because I miss seeing my coworkers and all the amazing families I work with, but I know that staying home is the right thing to do right now to keep everyone safe. I feel very lucky to be able to continue the work that I do. We are currently working on supply distribution strategies and hope to have something set up for this soon!
Joanna: What system changes would you like to see that would help young moms?
Jacqueline: For starters:
- Universal healthcare
- Fewer hoops to jump through to get services
- Better sex ed curriculum at school that covers childbirth and breastfeeding
- More accommodations for parents in the classroom and in the workplace
- Affordable housing
- Expanded mental health services
- Special training for staff who work closely with young parents that is trauma-informed and addresses unconscious bias
- Expanded paid parental leave
- More public transportation accessibility for strollers
To receive Nurse-Family Partnership’s services in New York City, call 311. You qualify if you are less than 28 weeks pregnant with your first baby, and if your monthly income is below the amounts listed in the chart below. The amounts are percentages of the current federal poverty level (FPL). The first column is for children age 1 and older; the second column for pregnant women and babies up to age 1.