“The early years of a child's life are very important for his or her health and development. We can work together as partners to help children grow up to reach their full potential.”

— Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The Story of Kennett: Shaping our Future One Child at a Time authored by Joan Holliday and Bob George consists of over 50 interviews of key leaders, who have made Kennett Square a better place to raise a family. In the following interview, Pat Yoder, Chester County Health Department, Supervisor of Maternal Child Health tells about the maternal child health nurse home visiting outreach. This service holds a special spot in my heart because the CCHD public health nursing role introduced me to the Kennett area and provided many avenues to work with partners promoting community well-being throughout my 32 years of service. An excerpt from Pat Yoder’s interview follows:

“The Chester County Health Department (CCHD) has consistently maintained a public health emphasis on health promotion since the start of the organization fifty years ago. It is one of ten local public health departments in Pennsylvania. In contrast to acute health care services, CCHD services focus on promoting the health of families, groups, and communities. The public health principle of “community as client” is embraced. In conducting countywide needs assessments, the findings note that maternal-child health indices are a key indicator of a community’s well-being.

The mission for our Maternal-Child Health (MCH) Nurse Home Visiting Program is to help promote the long-term health and well-being of moms and children through relationships that are developed through home-based visits. We have a range of nurse home visiting services, including a more intensive “Nurse-Family Partnership” program for first-time mothers and shorter term services funded by the federal Title V program for pregnant and postpartum moms who already have a child. All of our home visiting services are voluntary, free of cost to the client, and based on the consistency of having the same nurse for visits in order to build relationships.

We are primarily funded by federal, state and local funds. We also are required to have matching grants as a demonstration of local community support. We continue to receive funds from local foundations including the United Way of Chester County, the Health and Welfare Foundation of Southern Chester County, Brandywine Health Foundation, Phoenixville Community Health Foundation, and the Chester County Departments of Drug and Alcohol Services and Children, Youth and Families.

There are three public health nurses who make home visits to pregnant moms and children in the Kennett and Unionville school districts, including a bilingual Spanish speaking nurse. Also, there are three additional public health nurses covering the rest of southern Chester County with the same service. There are ninety-five families currently being served in the area.

Our home visiting process starts with a referral. We take a referral from any agency or community member, even a self-referral. We are fortunate to be an independent service and do not require a physician’s order or insurance coverage. We have risk criteria that need to be met in order to be eligible for our home visiting services, and we focus on the areas of prenatal, postpartum and child health. Once the referral is received, the nurse makes a phone call informing the client about the free support and education provided by registered nurses that is available through our programs. Fortunately, our reputation precedes us, and many pregnant and parenting mothers engage with these voluntary services.

After going through several iterations of models for our home visiting services, we now are pleased to offer a continuum of care. We start with first-time moms, and they receive more intensive services. Other referrals are evaluated for need, and the clients are visited accordingly; again with the intent of building a working relationship. The home visiting schedule is worked out between the nurse and the client, and the key word is flexibility.

Our public health nurses have been trained and equipped to provide an educational curriculum in the home, called “Partners in Parenting Education (PIPE)”. This education focuses on social and emotional health and helps build a strong base for parent-child engagement. This home-based education certainly helps promote kindergarten readiness. Bonding is such an important element in the early stages of life, followed by concrete activities whereby the parent and child interact in a personal, loving manner. There has been research on the effects of toxic stress and the importance of early assessment in a child’s life. Fortunately, there are protective factors that can be put in place to help mitigate the future effects of chronic stress.

We are passionate about our work. We are in the business of changing lives; however, we, too, are personally growing every day because of our clients’ lives. We can’t be in this role without becoming compassionate and inspired by how our clients rise above so many obstacles every day. In other words, we become equal partners, growing together and working towards building a better life and community.”

The book may be purchased at the Mushroom Cap, Kennett Resale Book Shoppe or Amazon.com

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