By Shelley Hill Young
Deona Scott had just finished her track eligibility at Charleston Southern University and was one semester short of graduating when she found out she was pregnant. She was raised by her grandmother because her mother wasn’t able to care for her, and she didn’t want the same future for her child. So when she learned through the state Department of Health and Environmental Control that she was eligible for a program that partnered nurses with qualified first-time moms for two years, she signed up.
“I could have easily just thrown my whole future away,” Deona says.
The Nurse-Family Partnership arranges for nurses to visit low-income Medicaid-eligible first-time mothers who are less than 28 weeks pregnant at no cost to the mother.
Deona’s nurse, Lindsay Odell, visited Deona once a week during her pregnancy, personally guiding her through what to expect during her pregnancy and after her baby was born.
A month into the program, Deona realized she was hungry and did not have enough food to eat to sustain herself and her baby. She was hesitant to tell Linsday because she was embarrassed. But she told herself that was what Lindsay was there for and that she needed to tell her. The following week, Lindsay brought Deona listings of food banks and places that provided food.
“It had me in tears,” Deona says.
“To know she had my back, and she’s here to educate me? That was the turning point when I said, ‘I’m going to stick with it and finish the program.’”
Deona says she would have never read to her baby while he was in her belly or breastfed for 14 months if it hadn’t been for Lindsay.
Lindsay not only taught Deona about parenting and having a healthy pregnancy, but also about life skills.
After Deona’s son was born, Lindsay encouraged Deona to go back to college and finish her degree. She led Lindsay through a goal-setting lesson, teaching her to write down her goals to make them more realistic and to assign a date to them to hold herself accountable.
Deona’s goal was to graduate from college. She eventually sold her car to send herself back to school. When Deona was near her graduation, Lindsay told her about an opening with the Nurse-Family Partnership program. Deona graduated in December 2015 and started a job in February as an outreach worker telling eligible first-time moms about the program.
“Deona came into our program focused and determined,” Linsday says. “Over the course of our program, she really found her voice and built her confidence, becoming an advocate for herself and her child.”
Deona’s son is about to turn 4, she’s married, and the couple recently welcomed a little girl.
Deona says Lindsay was nonjudgmental, followed through and saw her for what she could be.
“That’s so empowering.”
If you’re interested in learning more about the program, visit scnfp.org or call 844-SCMommy.