Families celebrate partnership, resiliency at annual picnic

July 29, 2013

Everyone needs a helping hand, and for first-time mothers, having a support system during and after pregnancy is crucial. Multnomah County’s Nurse-Family Partnership aims to provide the services low-income and at-risk mothers need to have a safe and healthy pregnancy.

The Nurse-Family Partnership — which began in Multnomah County in 1996 — is a free, voluntary health program that provides inexperienced first-time mothers the help and support they need to properly care for themselves and their child. The program’s nurses establish relationships with mothers through home visits during pregnancy until the child is 2 years old. The nurses provide support and health and wellness information to prepare the mothers to become knowledgeable, confident parents.

On Saturday, July 13, the Nurse-Family Partnership held their annual celebration at the East Portland Community Center. Nurses, along with the parents and children they have empowered, came together for food and activities to honor the meaningful relationships built and the difference the program’s care has made in so many lives.

"Folks, I just want to thank you so much for your commitment to your families, and all of the strengths of the work that you do for over two years to build a healthy family,’’ said Jessica Guernsey, manager for the program told the extended families gathered.

"This celebration is one of the best things I've experienced in my entire career. It's amazing to see that many people come out and celebrate their success. It's a huge testament to the commitment that these families make to stabilizing their future. It's really moving."

Kakala Motuliki arrived with her daughter, and Norma Salazar, her neighbor and best friend who is also in the program. Motuliki praised Christina Cravens, the nurse who has worked so closely with her family.

“My nurse was there for me when I was pregnant with my daughter,” Motuliki said. “But she also visits me at home and checks in on us. It helps a lot. She helps me fill out applications too, like for school. It would be hard without her; she’s a wonderful nurse.”

Such support has yielded measurable results. Studies have shown the Nurse-Family Partnership reduces the probability of child abuse and neglect, emergency room visits and behavioral problems in the children it serves. Women participating in the program benefit from learning preventive health and prenatal practices, health and development education and become more economically self-sufficient through encouragement to pursue education, jobs, and their own futures.

The Nurse-Family Partnership helps guide mothers onto the right track to lead healthier, safer lives. Ultimately, the program hopes to ensure that both mother and child have a safe environment to grow up and thrive in.

"A lot of families are struggling in our community, and I think the Nurse Family Partnership is a great investment in the lifelong trajectory of health in Multnomah County,’’ Guernsey said.

For more information:

Multnomah County Early Childhood Services

Nurse-Family Partnership