Sierrah Nageotte and her nurse, Suzy Bockmann-Thomas, have met weekly or biweekly for more than two years.
They and Nageotte’s 2-year-old son, Evander, are part of the Benton-Franklin Health District’s Nurse-Family Partnership, which helps mothers work through the challenges of birth and raising a child.
Nine moms and their toddlers were set to graduate from the program Tuesday.
“It feels like an accomplishment, but it’s sad because we’re leaving,” said Nageotte, 18, of Pasco.
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Bockmann-Thomas has worked with Nageotte and Evander since Nageotte was five months pregnant.
“She helped me a lot,” Nageotte said. “Once (Evander) was a baby, she was just there.”
The program helps mothers who may struggle with income prepare for the birth process, breastfeeding and potential postpartum depression. It also coaches them on healthy spending habits and how to make the best of their physical environment.
Registered nurses often visit pregnant mothers during their pregnancy and up to the first two years of their child’s life.
The program also is planning to expand its services.
“We’re only in Franklin County right now, but we’re ready to launch into Benton County,” said Marie Hutson, Nurse-Family Partnership supervisor.
Babies aren’t born with tattoos telling you how to raise them. You go baby steps getting to where they want to be.
Suzy Bochmann-Thomas, Benton-Franklin Health District Nurse-Family Partnership
Benton County signed on after voters approved the public safety tax in 2014. One of its newest nurses in Benton County will start taking clients in November.
“It’s a pretty intense program to get started in,” Hutson said. “She has to go through some education before she can take some clients.”
Right now, there are four nurses in the partnership. New nurses must complete 30 hours of coursework and then visit Denver for a week of personal group training.
Bockmann-Thomas, who has been in the program since 2013, referred to her role as a “cheerleader.”
“Babies aren’t born with tattoos telling you how to raise them,” Bockmann-Thomas said. “You go baby steps getting to where they want to be.”
Nurses guide parents on healthy ways to communicate with children without yelling, and other ways to make sure their child gets the support they need. Nurses also work to prevent early term births and parental substance abuse, and encourage breast feeding.
Children from low-income families in similar programs around the country start earlier in higher reading and math levels, Hutson said.
In most cases, Hutson and Bockmann-Thomas said younger mothers are also less likely to graduate from high school. With Bockmann-Thomas’ help, Nageotte was able to complete high school, find a job and attend classes at Columbia Basin College.
The Nurse-Family Partnership is free and available for any first-time mom who enrolls before the 28th week of pregnancy and is eligible for Medicaid.
“We’re really breaking the cycle of poverty,” Hutson said.