Catholic Social Services of the Miami Valley is an organization that receives funds from the 1 Faith 1 Hope 1 Love campaign. The 2017 funds allowed CSSMV to provide new ways to serve new parents and enhance its support services. The article below first appeared in the Catholic Social Services Summer 2018 Good News magazine.
Healthy Babies, Empowered Parents, Thriving Families
If you ask someone in the Greater Dayton region, “What does Catholic Social Services do?” they will often name some of the agency’s most high-profile programs, such as the Choice Food Pantry or the Refugee Resettlement program. But they are often unaware of the work taking place through the agency’s Pregnancy & Parenting Support programs. In fact, these services are among the agency’s most impactful, making a tangible difference in new parents’ ability to raise healthy, happy children. In 2017, CSSMV’s pregnancy and parenting program served 444 clients and their families, with the majority of those in Montgomery County.
Starting with Healthy Babies
According to the Ohio Department of Health, prematurity-related conditions – such as preterm birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy – are the leading cause of infant deaths in Ohio. (Infants are defined as those who haven’t yet reached their first birthday.) Montgomery County has the fifth highest infant mortality rate in the state, a statistic that is simply unacceptable. Catholic Social Services has been participating on Montgomery County’s EveryOne Reach One Infant Mortality Task Force to identify and implement effective ways to increase the number of babies who make it to their first birthdays and beyond.
Cindy Currell, CSSMV’s director of social services in Dayton, is the agency’s representative on the task force. “Through this collective impact approach,” she said, “Catholic Social Services has developed new partnerships for supporting pregnant and parenting individuals. We’ve also raised awareness of how CSSMV can address the social determinants of health – not only through our work in pregnancy preparation and parenting support, but also through our complementary services such as mental health counseling, access to fresh produce through our food pantry, early childhood education, and general family stabilization and support case management and utility assistance. Our holistic supports really help strengthen pregnant mothers and families – which is the foundation for healthy babies and safe and healthy kids.”
Through the county task force, the Ohio Department of Medicaid has recently made investments in six community initiatives aimed at reducing infant mortality by connecting women and infants to quality health care and care management. With this new funding, CSSMV is partnering with the West Dayton Health Promotion Partnership and Sunlight Village to implement the Family Wellness Community Health Worker Program. The program is designed to increase peer-to-peer support that’s tailored to meet the unique needs of the community, and CSSMV now has two full-time Community Health Workers who are doing community outreach, educating young pregnant and parenting moms of infants (up to the age of one) about infant mortality and making connections to services that can help strengthen their families.
Making a Life-Changing Decision
For some mothers, having a healthy pregnancy starts with a major life decision: whether to become a parent to their child, or to make an adoption plan. CSSMV offers birth options counseling 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and can provide additional assistance to help ensure a healthy pregnancy and birth. Agency staff are available to support the birth mother and her family as well as the birth father – before, during and after whatever decision they make.
CSSMV’s state-certified adoption counselor can provide information about the various adoption options, as well as explaining what to expect from both emotional and legal perspectives. If the decision is to make an adoption plan, a counselor can help connect the birth parents with a trusted adoption agency for placement.
For those who decide to parent their child, Catholic Social Services offers a variety of pregnancy and parenting supports. This can start with information and links to community resources for prenatal care, financial assistance, home visiting services, support groups, child care, and other services. CSSMV can also connect expectant parents with its own ParentLink programs, including the Mothers Empowered prenatal care program, Nurturing Parenting education, and Teen Parents Learn.
“Parenting Support” Isn’t Only About the Babies
While promoting healthy births and babies is a key component in CSSMV’s efforts, the agency also understands that a variety of factors in the parents’ lives can help a child – and its entire family – thrive. That’s why CSSMV’s Family Life Coaches work with moms and dads on goals related to their own education, careers, health, and emotional well-being, as well as giving them the knowledge and tools to be confident, empowered parents to their children.
For the past seven years, Catholic Social Services has partnered with Lifestages Centers for Women and the Good Samaritan Hospital Foundation to offer the Mothers Empowered program. In this wraparound support program, Lifestages provides CenteringPregnancy® group prenatal care and CSSMV’s Family Life Coaches provide parenting preparation, nurturing parenting education, home visiting, and community resources case management. The program isn’t just for the expectant mothers; fathers are encouraged to participate as well. Once the babies are born, the Family Life Coaches facilitate ongoing group meetings and offer ongoing one-on-one home visits.
Other parenting supports offered by CSSMV include home-based Nurturing Parenting classes with one-on-one support from a Family Life Coach; the Teen Parents Learn program, which helps teenage moms and dads stay in school (or return to school) to graduate with their high school diplomas; and free parenting classes offered at the agency’s Center for Families in Dayton.
Mothers Empowered Finds a New Home
With the closure of Good Samaritan Hospital, Mothers Empowered needed to find a new home. The program will continue to serve clients at Miami Valley Hospital North (formerly Good Sam North) in Englewood, but it was important to all the partners that the program continue serving the west Dayton community.
The search led to the Dr. Charles R. Drew Health Center at 1323 West Third Street, adjacent to the Wright-Dunbar neighborhood. This is one of several facilities operated by Community Health Centers of Greater Dayton, a non-profit corporation with a mission to improve lives by providing quality primary and preventive health care services to those in need, regardless of their ability to pay. As of mid-July, Mothers Empowered has its own classroom space at the center, and services will continue without interruption.
“We couldn’t be happier about this new partnership,” said Catholic Social Services CEO Laura Roesch. “We are committed to serving our neighbors in west Dayton, and we believe that this new location will make the Mothers Empowered program even more visible and accessible.”
For pregnancy and birth options counseling, call (937) 296-1007 ext. 2120 during regular business hours. In the evening or on weekends, call (937) 223-7217, press 3, and leave a confidential message. A counselor will return your call promptly.
For information about CSSMV’s other pregnancy and parenting support services, please call (937) 299-LINK (5465).