About 17 families celebrated the completion of their Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) program, one of the many services that New York City’s largest public health nonprofit, Public Health Solutions (PHS), has to offer.
The heartwarming graduation ceremony took place at the Langston Hughes Library on Wednesday, as 2-year-olds who wore capes that read “I am an NFP Superhero” (or in Spanish, “Soy un Superheroe de NFP”) ran around the auditorium with their mothers at their heels.
NFP is a maternal health program dedicated to helping low-income and immigrant families get off to the best possible start. It is specifically geared toward first-time mothers, who enroll in the program before they reach their 28-week mark of pregnancy and receive guidance about parenthood from their nurses until their child is two years old.
“They focus initially on a good birth outcome,” said Lisa David, the CEO of PHS. “NFP moms have 18 percent fewer preterm births compared to women who are not in the program in the community, so they have better outcomes.”
According to Marci Rosa, senior director of Maternal and Child Health for PHS, Wednesday’s event marked the ninth graduation ceremony since it began in 2008.
Deb Kaplan, the assistant commissioner of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, joined the festivities and called the program, one of their department’s “favorites.”
But for most of the nurses and their mothers, this was a bittersweet moment.
Monica Mena, a nurse home visitor with the NFP, who also provided the Spanish translations during the event, said that for her, part of the reason that the program is so great is due to the relationships they develop with the families they serve.
“You get to develop a really strong bond with them and the children,” Mena said. “So this celebration is very exciting, but at the same time it’s kind of sad because I know that I might not see them again.”
Corona resident Altagracia Bido, who has a 2-year-old daughter and a newborn son, is one of the mothers who graduated from the program. She mirrored her nurse Mena’s statements.
“It’s a great program, I even feel sad that it ended,” Bido said in Spanish. “It has helped me a lot, the nurses have been very good, not only with me, but also with my husband and my whole family.”
Bido, a native of the Dominican Republic, said that her best friend recommended the program to her when she got pregnant with her first child.
After almost three years, Bido is grateful for the help she received, and mentioned that her husband, Marlon Printemp, is now learning English and is enrolled in a university thanks to NFP.
“This program is very good for women like me who don’t have family here, because sometimes one feels lonely but the nurses keep us company, give us information and many other things that encourages us,” Bido said.
NFP provides services in all of the five boroughs. According to David, they enroll 250 families per year. Their mission is not only to help families succeed in caring for their children, but also to help parents achieve their own personal career goals.
She said that while 13 to 15 percent of mothers are employed when they first begin the program, “nearly two-thirds at the end of two years are employed.”
David, who admitted that the NFP is also her favorite program, added that, “I’ve had a mom say, ‘I didn’t even think I was allowed to have goals.’ It helps with their economic security, they’re much less stressed, there are fewer mental health issues with their kids — it’s just an incredible program.”