This month, Bootheel Babies & Families is very pleased to feature Melinda Sweeney, Executive Director of the Regional Health Foundation. Melinda has been an active part of Bootheel Babies & Families’ Community Steering Committee for years, and her organization’s Mother-to-Mother program is a current Grantee serving women and babies in Stoddard, Dunklin and Pemiscot counties.
Regional Healthcare Foundation is very proud of its Mother-to-Mother (M2M) program, which offers a hand up…not a hand out… to expecting or parenting young women.
The M2M program began in Dexter in 2002 when a group of very special women worked out of the trunks of their cars to provide mentoring and support to young first-time moms. The primary goal of the program is the prevention of child abuse and neglect.
Today, M2M serves close to 50 young Stoddard County women and their families. M2M moms meet with their mentors, attend social and educational activities, earn “baby bucks” to spend in the Baby Boutique, partake of the food pantry and receive educational and career counseling. Recently the program has been able to extend its educational and career counseling services to significant others as well.
A young woman is eligible to enroll in the M2M program if she lives in Stoddard County, is expecting a child or already has a child under the age of one, is 24 years old or younger, has or is in the process of earning her high school diploma or HSE certificate and has no legal issues.
M2M’s Multi-Phase Approach
M2M is a multi-phase program with different expectations of the participants in each stage.
As a Missouri Foundation for Health Infant Mortality Reduction Initiative grantee, M2M has been able to offer our Best For Baby educational program to moms through the health departments in Stoddard, Pemiscot, and Dunklin Counties. Our nurse educator offers three sessions: Prenatal Care, Keeping Baby Safe and Healthy and Coping After Baby’s Birth. Because Safe Sleep is a primary focus of the Best for Baby program, participants who complete the Safe Sleep lesson are given a safe sleep kit, and those in Stoddard and Dunklin Counties are given to opportunity to receive pack n plays. They must agree to allow a nurse educator to come to their homes and help set up the pack n plays and evaluate the safety of their babies’ sleep environments.
Mother-to-Mother continues to grow and change as our young moms and their families face new challenges. Substance abuse in general, and the opioid crisis in particular, have and will continue to negatively impact our community. The Mother-to-Mother staff is looking at providing substance abuse prevention activities as part of our educational activities.
During the past four years, I have seen many M2M “success stories” write themselves. The biggest successes are evidenced by young women who…through their hard work and determination, and a little help from M2M, have nurtured healthy, happy, safe children. Many of these young women have graduated high school and college. They are teachers, nurses, insurance agents, physical therapy assistants, and the list goes on.
Many of these success stories are still “in progress.” The M2M staff, Teresa, Chris, Rachelle, Nancy, Linda, Sherry and Kellie, are helping to write those stories. I am very proud of them and all the M2M moms and their families.
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Melinda Sweeney is the Executive Director of the Regional Healthcare Foundation (RHF) in Dexter, Missouri. She was originally hired in 2014 as a member of the Mother-to-Mother staff. Mother-to-Mother is one of two flagship programs at RHF. Melinda is a member of the Bootheel Babies and Families steering committee, and the Mother-to-Mother Program is a past and current IMRI grantee and BBF partner.