Mercy Health offers free programs for expectant parents

Image of women and children in a classroom setting, provided by Mercy Health

If  the adage “it takes a village to raise a child” is true, the same could be said for having a child. 

That is the idea behind Mercy Health’s Resource Mother program, which started in 2006 in Trumbull County. Its Mahoning County counterpart launched in 2009, and the program now serves more than 1,000 families each year, according to licensed social worker Dee Traylor, who has served as program manager since 2011.

The Resource Mother program assists women and girls from pregnancy through their child’s first birthday and offers home visits once a month. A resource mother is a specially trained health worker and mother who offers support, referrals and information so expectant and new mothers can make the best choices for themselves and their babies. Traylor said clients are matched with one of five available resource mothers.

The home visits include a prenatal education program and referrals to other social service agencies if needed, Traylor said. The resource mothers also provide new moms with diapers and other baby items.

“We noticed that a lot of women are not prepared when they go into the delivery room, and many do not have a support system once they arrive home with their baby,” Traylor said. “The resource mom makes sure the expectant mother knows what to expect each month of their pregnancy. And they learn about what to do when their child is sick.”

The Resource Mother program is for first- or second-time moms, but exceptions can be made depending on the circumstances, Traylor said. 

However, the support does not stop after the baby’s first year. There are now several offshoot programs that continue beyond that timeframe. 

The Empowering Moms support group, which started 10 years ago, meets twice a month. There, women discuss a variety of topics related to being a new mom, such as breastfeeding techniques, sleep tips and how to deal with illnesses. They also discuss their future goals and feelings, such as how to prevent depression and anxiety, which are common emotions for new mothers.  

“The goal of Empowering Moms is to prevent these new moms from feeling isolated, and to show them that other women are dealing with some of the same issues they are and they are not alone,” Traylor said.

The twice-a-month sessions also include a free breakfast or lunch, as well as a craft project of some sort. Traylor said during a recent April session, the women were given plant kits, with the flowers expected to bloom in time for Mother’s Day. 

“We had 25 moms and 17 kids there on April 24,” Traylor said, noting finding a babysitter is sometimes an obstacle for mothers, so children are welcome at the sessions. 

She said the program is free and transportation is provided for those who need it.

Another offshoot program that grew from the Resource Mother program is the Fresh Start healthy cooking class, which started in 2013. It also meets twice a month and teaches new moms how to choose nutritious foods for their families and how to cook using fresh ingredients.

Mercy Health also offers the Centering Pregnancy program, which started in 2015, and can best be described as “group prenatal care in a comfortable setting,” Traylor said.

“We have found that women are more likely to come for prenatal and post pregnancy care if they have a support system here,” she said. “Their birthing experience is much better and they have healthier babies.”

Centering Pregnancy is a 10-week session that is offered to expectant mothers—whether they are having their first child or their fifth. 

Traylor said there is a lot of overlap between the programs, with women enrolled in the  Resource Mother program getting home visits once a month and attending the 

Empowering Moms or Fresh Start programs twice a month.

“They make friends in these groups, and having that support is so important,” she said.

There also is a car seat program offered through Mercy Health in which a certified car seat technician teaches parents how to install and safely buckle their baby into a car seat. CPR classes are offered, where participants learn to administer CPR on an infant, child and adult. 

Mothers also get access to social service programs, where they can find out what programs are available, get assistance in applying and get referrals to other agencies when needed. 

For fathers, Mercy Health offers the 24/7 Dad program that meets every other week for eight weeks. This program teaches men the characteristics they need to be good fathers 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

Fathers also can take advantage of monthly educational home visits, which provide mentorship and support for dads so they are ready when the baby arrives and beyond. 

Image of four men holding certificates after completion of the Mercy Health Program

Traylor said the fatherhood support programs began in 2018. “Six men just graduated from the 24/7 Dad program on April 20,” she said. 

Traylor said all of Mercy Health’s mother and father support groups are offered free of charge and there are no income guidelines to qualify. The programs are funded through donations to the Mercy Health Foundation. She said some staff members are funded through the Mahoning Valley Pathway Hub managed care contract.

The Resource Mother program is housed at the Women’s Center, 452 Broadway Avenue, near the main campus of St. Elizabeth Hospital. The Empowering Moms and 24/7 Dads programs take place at the Family Nurturing Center, 2955 Canfield Road in Youngstown.

“Usually, we get referrals for the programs from area obstetricians or primary care providers. However, you can just stop by either office to sign up,” Traylor said.

For more information on any of these programs, call 330-480-2604. 

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Marly Reichert

Marly Reichert lives in Campbell with her husband, Jack, and two beagles, Simon and Sadie. She is a parishioner of St. Columba Cathedral, where she is a lector, Eucharistic minister and is on parish council. She is the metro editor at The Vindicator and Tribune Chronicle in Warren. She has one brother, Stanley Kosinski Jr., a sister-in-law, Theresa, and five nieces. She and Jack enjoy going to movies and antique stores. She has been writing for The Catholic Exponent for about 20 years. She loves mystery novels and watching "The Price is Right."
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