Rosa was just eighteen years old and living in a shelter with her mother, when she gave birth to her daughter, Katherine. Being a single mother at such a young age, Rosa already felt nervous and unsure about caring for a young child, but her troubles were compounded when immediately postpartum, her appendix ruptured, leaving her in pain for weeks.

While Rosa recovered from the appendectomy, Katherine spent the most time in her grandmother’s care. For the first three months of Katherine’s life, Rosa described herself as feeling lost and struggling to bond with or care for her daughter. “I was going through a lot. I needed sometime to be alone to adjust to my new life as a young mother. My mother helped me care for Katherine because I was not in the right state of mind,” says Rosa.

Eventually, Rosa’s mother returned to work, leaving her alone with Katherine. This did not help either, and Rosa remembers continuing to feel distant from the baby and unsure of how best to take care of her. Rosa felt most concerned about not knowing how to ensure that her baby was growing healthy. She knew she needed more help.

This was when a social worker at Woodhull Hospital referred Rosa to Public Health Solutions’ Healthy Families Program, one of our free family support and home visitation programs. The program helps parents garner the appropriate skills to support their young children, beginning as early as pregnancy and lasting until the child is five years old. Relying on interactions with trained family support specialists, the program provides comprehensive home-based parenting education and support, child development screening and tools, and referrals to services for parents of newborns, with the goals of enhancing family well-being and self-sufficiency. 

Through the program, Rosa connected with a family support specialist who began home visitations to assess Katherine’s development and helped Rosa set milestones for herself as a mother. Through the course of next several months, Rosa and her family support specialist, Lizbeth, worked on the baby’s development while keeping sight on Rosa’s goals for the future. Lizbeth also connected Rosa and her mother with community resources such as SNAP (food stamp) benefits for the overall development of their family.

“I remember thinking how amazing this is because I did not know that there was a program like this, that supports you with your baby and helps with the future development of your baby.”

With Lizbeth’s support, Rosa is well on her way to achieving her goals of understanding Katherine’s development and learning parenting techniques to best nurture Katherine’s growth. Rosa is also learning how to play and interact with her baby and has completely overcome her early obstacles of bonding with Katherine. 

This month, Rosa celebrated Katherine’s first birthday. Katherine is a happy and healthy child, while Rosa passed her junior year of high school and will begin her senior year of high school this coming fall.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought new hardships for their little family – one in every five New Yorkers has lost their job and unfortunately, Rosa’s mother was one of them – but Rosa is grateful for Lizbeth’s steady support.

Rosa and Lizbeth continue to meet once-a-week remotely through video calls so Lizbeth can continue to help monitor Katherine’s growth, empower Rosa with tools and information that she needs to be a wonderful mother, a role she has wholeheartedly embraced. These days, their conversations revolve around starting Katherine with finger foods and helping and Rosa balance schoolwork with motherhood.

Rosa also shared with Lizbeth how she hopes to work as a teacher’s assistant in a daycare when she graduates because she has gained a newfound love for children from her experience as a mother. Lizbeth says, “It has been amazing to see Rosa flourish and engage with her baby. She was doubtful of herself as a young mother when we started, but now to see her interact with her baby with confidence and love is incredible!”

Rosa echoes the same sentiment, saying, “Before I started the program, I did not know anything about babies or what to expect when coming into motherhood. Now, I love being a mother, and Katherine and I have the greatest bond.”

PHS’ home-visiting programs, such as Healthy Families, help pregnant and parenting families have better health outcomes, ensuring that young babies and their families are on a path to healthier lives.

Your commitment to our work helps support vulnerable teen moms like Rosa and get them the support they and their children need. However, we have many other soon-to-be mothers on waiting lists for these vital home visiting services.  With your additional gift, we can expand to help more women in need. Make your contribution today.

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