By Shelby Mullis
INDIANAPOLIS — Nidia Cuevas dreams of the day she can serve Hoosier families as a nurse.
Cuevas, an Indianapolis resident, was 19 when she found out she was pregnant with Oliver, her now two-year-old son.
“In the beginning, I was a bit lost with my pregnancy. I was worried about school, worried about work, worried about how I would balance my health, my job, my school and my son,” Cuevas said. “It was very hard in the beginning.”
Nidia Cuevas poses for a photo with her son, Oliver, and her nurse, Katherin Harkov. Cuevas was paired with Harkov through the Nurse-Family Partnership. Photo provided Sam Perry, Nurse-Family Partnership
That’s when she discovered Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana’s Nurse-Family Partnership, a program that helps low-income, first-time mothers in Indiana through their first two-and-a-half years of motherhood. These mothers are typically vulnerable to poverty, preterm births, and other poor maternal and child health outcomes.
Through the community health program, Cuevas was connected with Katherine Harkov, a registered bilingual nurse. Both Cuevas and Harkov speak Spanish and English.
“Katherine is really a part of an amazing program,” Cuevas said. “It’s like a support system that is there with a lot of resources.”
And that’s exactly what Harkov serves as — a support system to hundreds of mothers across the state.
Now, Cuevas aims to serve in a similar support role to Hoosier mothers by earning her nursing degree to work for Nurse-Family Partnership one day.
What is Nurse-Family Partnership?
In January, three months after Cuevas graduated from the program, House Republicans proposed to allocate $5 million toward funding Nurse-Family Partnership in Indiana’s 2018-2019 biennial budget.
After spending two-and-a-half years as a client of Nurse-Family Partnership, Cuevas hopes Indiana lawmakers understand the need for the funding as the Senate works on its version of the budget.
“I know there are not a lot of young, first-time moms that have that same support system, so I know Nurse-Family Partnership is amazing and helps many, many moms,” Cuevas said.
The program is currently funded by federal dollars through the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting program, as well as Title V funding through the Indiana State Department of Health. Additional funds are supplied by donations and assistance from partnerships, such as one with Indiana University Health.
In order to qualify for Nurse-Family Partnership services, a woman must be a first-time mother, at less than 28 weeks in her pregnancy and Medicaid-eligible, meeting a certain income level.
Since its launch in 2011, more than 1,400 mothers have been served through the program. And the number continues to grow.
In 2015, Nurse-Family Partnership served more than 850 clients. The graph above describes the program’s race demographics in 2015. Graphic created by Shelby Mullis
The partnership currently serves six Indiana counties, including Marion, Lake and Madison counties, with three and a half teams of nurses throughout, said Betsy Delgado, the vice president of mission advancement for Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana.
“About a year ago, we moved up to Lake County and are partnering with organizations up there for implementation,” Delgado said. “It’s really about working with the Indiana State Department of Health and seeing where they feel the greatest need is.”
Delgado previously worked in the education field at Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana, but when she saw what Nurse-Family Partnership was accomplishing, she immediately wanted to get involved.
Senior Director Lisa Crane highlighted the program’s successes in a letter published in Nurse-Family Partnership’s 2015 annual report: 148 graduates and 51 job placements for 42 participants, up from 33 clients in 2014.
“In addition, many continue to enroll and graduate from our certification programs for clinical medical assistant, patient access, pharmacy technician and nursing assistant,” Crane said.
With those 148 graduates comes Delgado’s favorite part of the program — the graduation ceremony.
As mothers and their child walk across the stage to receive their diplomas for completing the two-and-a-half-year program, Delgado calls it both an exciting and bittersweet moment.
“You see families really transform themselves and take advantage of this opportunity,” she said. “It’s not just about the health outcomes for the family; it’s also about working on self-efficacy and what the moms and dads want to do for their own education, with their own future knowing it’ll have that generational impact on their child.”
One of the groups the Nurse-Family Partnership works with is the Community Health Network. There, Dr. Tim Kelly works with mothers battling substance addiction as part of a separate but similar program through Community.
“The program treats mothers who are pregnant and continues to follow them after their pregnancy for a while until we can find further resources,” Kelly said. “We’re seeing tremendous improvement and outcome, as evidenced by significant reduction in testing positive for drugs at the time of delivery.”
The health network also opened a store for low-income mothers to earn items needed to raise their child. In order to earn these items, the mother must complete parenting classes and prenatal visits through the network.
Delgado said partnerships like the one shared with Community Health Network and the Franciscan Alliance make Nurse-Family Partnership what it is today.
“A big part of our work is building referral sources,” she said.
While Nurse-Family Partnership is a partnership within itself, they partner with all major hospital systems, school corporations, counselors and housing associations in order to build these referral sources.
Nidia and Alberto Cuevas pose for a photo with their son, Oliver. Nidia Cuevas graduated from the Nurse-Family Partnership in 2016. Photo provided Nidia Cuevas.
Day in the life of Katherine Harkov, NFP Bilingual Nurse
When Harkov isn’t catching up with Cuevas, she can be found serving nearly 30 other clients.
It all starts at 9 a.m. every weekday. Harkov prepares her bag for the day, filling it with activities for her daily visits.
One of her most recent visits was with a mother preparing to graduate from the program.
“A lot of what we do is helping moms understand what their child is going through developmentally, what kind of behaviors to expect, and how to support them so they’re reaching all the milestones,” Harkov said.
Through activities and lessons, Harkov is able to learn more about her clients and their habits.
But she said the best part of her job is seeing what these clients have learned over the last two-and-a-half years and how they continue to define success.
“It definitely is a special relationship, and I know for a lot of nurses, including myself, it’s hard to say goodbye at the end of that time because we get to know our clients so well,” Harkov said. “We talk to them about what their dreams and their plans are for their babies and we get to watch them carry out a lot of those things because we’re with them for such a long period of time.”
Harkov said her relationship with Cuevas is a special one.
One of the most notable qualities Harkov recognized in Cuevas was her enthusiasm from the beginning, always creating goals for herself to achieve throughout the process.
“What I noticed with her is by the end of the program, she was really starting to think like a nurse,” Harkov said. “Now that she’s graduated from our program, she’s taking classes and working to hopefully be a nurse one day.”
Nidia Cuevas: Pursuing her goals
After graduating from Nurse-Family Partnership last October, Nidia Cuevas continues to attend classes at Ivy Tech Community College, working to attain a degree in nursing that could potentially land her a dream job with Nurse-Family Partnership.
With two-year-old Oliver and her husband Alberto by her side, Cuevas said she pushes herself forward every day to reach new levels of success.
“I would love to help moms, simply by being a resource and a support system for young mothers,” she said. “Honestly, this program helps a lot of young mothers. At that age, it’s hard. But it’s nice to know there is someone there to support you and guide you through the journey.”
For more information on how you can get involved with Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana and the Nurse-Family Partnership, visit nursefamilypartnership.org.
Correction: This story has been updated from its original version to correctly spell Katherine Harkov’s last name. TheStatehouseFile.com regrets the mistake.
Shelby Mullis is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.