Featured image: Sitting area in the Prenatal Assistance Program facility in Michigan City at Homer Street Campus
Pregnancy is something that no one should face alone, so for the past 20-25 years, Franciscan has housed a Prenatal Assistance Program in an effort to assist teen mothers and their families. 10-15 years ago, teen pregnancy rates declined, so Franciscan repurposed the program to focus on prenatal and postpartum education.
The Prenatal Assistance Program uses a curriculum founded on evidence-based practices to assist program participants both during and after pregnancy. This program is open for enrollment at any phase of pregnancy through a child’s first birthday.
Through this program, participants receive access to a clinical therapist and a multidisciplinary team of nursing community health workers who have social work backgrounds. Starting this summer, they will also have access to community paramedics.
Community Health Improvement Director Danielle Crowder noted that the Prenatal Assistance Program takes special care to help not only babies but also mothers.
“We strive to ensure that we're treating mother and baby; they're a duo, but so often mom gets lost in translation when a new baby arrives,” Crowder said. “We specifically tailor classes for women and support groups for women. It's so important to take care of yourself from a health perspective–mentally, physically, and emotionally–when you're pregnant and also afterward. We have to strive to be the best versions of ourselves not only for us but also for our children and our families.”
Making physical therapy, occupational therapy, and sleep therapy available to women are a few of the core ways that Franciscan Health safeguards the overall health of women and their families. The Prenatal Assistance Program has also worked with community partners like WorkOne to host workshops covering topics like maternity leave and re-entering the workforce, understanding the emotional well-being of families, child passenger safety, and more.
Crowder shared that when women consistently show up for appointments and are compliant with the Prenatal Assistance Program overall, they gain access to a baby depot store.
“We reward them with monopoly-like money, and they are then able to shop in this store,” she said. “All the items are gently used or brand new, but in large part, all items are new. This includes diapers, wipes, all baby hydrate, maternity clothes, breastfeeding supplies, and anything that you could think of that would be on a baby registry.”
Education may be the main focus of the Prenatal Assistance Program, but it also makes sure to celebrate milestones along the way with events such as community baby showers and first-birthday celebrations.
“There’s a supportive safety net that we create for them, oftentimes for those that maybe don't have support in their life,” Crowder said. “It's really given them the can-do attitude, that they can do this regardless of their circumstances. That sense of community with staff and program enrollees is likely the biggest help.”
In 2018, the Prenatal Assistance Program expanded to Franciscan’s Hammond campus and in 2021, it expanded to the Michigan City and Rensselaer campuses. Crowder shared that there are more program developments to come with a diaper bank in the last phases of opening.
For more information about Franciscan Health and the Prenatal Assistance Program, visit https://www.franciscanhealth.org/.