In June 2014, a dream and a desire to help people became reality with the opening of the Southwestern Child Development Commission’s Nurse-Family Partnership.

NFP is a nationally-recognized, evidence-based home visiting program for first-time expectant mothers. The partnership site in Sylva serves Jackson, Haywood, Macon and Swain counties. In December 2018, the offices moved to a new location at 60 Woody Hampton Road (formerly the Smith Insurance building).

First-time expectant mothers come into the NFP by the 28th week of pregnancy, although earlier enrollment is encouraged. There is no cost; funding comes from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services budget, and funds for operation from grant funds. Enrollment in the NFP is totally voluntary.

Each expectant mother is assigned a registered nurse, who makes regular visits in the home or in another location if the client wishes. Visits have been made by the NFP nurses in locations such as a park, the library, McDonald’s – wherever the decided-upon place chosen by the client and her nurse. A nurse might travel up to 100 miles a day to visit clients.

Nurses offer support and encouragement to expectant mothers. Some topics the client and nurse may discuss include diet, exercise, breastfeeding, and what to expect during labor and delivery. NFP encourages the father and/or other family members to be involved in visits to learn ways to support the mother.

The NFP is in no way designed to take the place of the client’s physician and regular visits to the OB practice.

Following the baby’s birth, mother and baby continue in the NFP until the child reaches 2 years old. The nurse continues to monitor the baby and mother’s health and to offer suggestions for home safety, birth control, help with referrals for childcare, developing job skills and furthering education. Many women in the NFP have received a GED or continued education in a community college or university.

Twice each year, in May and November, an NFP “graduation” is held at the Southwestern Family Resource Center to honor the mothers and their children who have reached age 2 during a six-month period.

Due to COVID-19, this year’s graduation has been moved to an anticipated date of Thursday, June 18.

At graduation, mothers and children are recognized with certificates along with gift certificates for the mothers and backpacks with books, bubbles, coloring books with crayons and other items for the children. Extended family members are invited to attend the graduation, and a light meal is served.

The upcoming June graduation will be a time of recognition of 17 clients along with their children who have been a part of the NFP for two-plus years. Community support from individuals as well as businesses, make it possible to provide the graduation programs.

NFP had to be creative due to COVID-19. A “new way” of visiting came about as nurses began making their regular visits as scheduled, with one major exception. The “visits” were conducted by telephone from the homes of the visiting nurses. The regular support system for expectant mothers and new mothers continued without a down moment.

The NFP has three goals:

1. Improve pregnancy outcomes by helping women engage in good preventive health practices, including obtaining thorough prenatal care from their healthcare providers, improving their diet, and reducing their use of cigarettes, alcohol and illegal substances.

2. Improve child health and development by helping parents provide responsible and competent care for their children.

3. Improve the economic self-sufficiency of the family by helping parents develop a vision for their own future, plan future pregnancies, continue their education and find work.

The Southwestern NFP serves as many as 100 clients at a time with a staff of six: Vicki Lewis, nursing supervisor; Pamela Patterson, Sarah Rish, Kathryn Ross and Sherry Trout, nurse home visitors; and Frankie Harris, part-time administrative assistant.

For additional information on the Nurse-Family Partnership or to receive a blank referral form, contact Vicki Lewis at 507-3335.