SOUTHERN INDIANA — Tiondra Poyntz didn’t have much more than the love of her soon-to-be born son when she connected with nurse Jade Cunningham.
A teenager, Poyntz had dropped out of high school and was living in a maternity shelter when she was referred to Cunningham through Goodwill of Central and Southern Indiana’s Nurse-Family Partnership.
Not only was Cunningham there to help the Floyd County teen with her pregnancy, she aided Cunningham in securing housing three weeks before Poyntz gave birth to her son, Shiloh.
“I had nothing at all,” Poyntz said. “She was actually able to help me get furniture, a bed, a kitchen table, a microwave — literally everything.”
One-year-old Shiloh is doing well, and that’s what drew Cunningham to the job. She said that specifically in Southern Indiana there’s not enough support for single mothers and the struggles they endure.
Cunningham was working in mental health services before joining the Goodwill program.
“It interested me because being a first-time mom is hard enough no matter what background you have,” she said. “They need to feel loved and have somebody reliable to help them through the hardships of becoming a mother, emotionally and physically.”
The nurse-mother relationship is truly a partnership, as both sides have to be committed to not just a successful pregnancy, but to fostering a positive environment for the child, Cunningham said.
Poyntz is a perfect example of what can happen when the relationship works as intended, she added.
“I’ve watched her succeed. She’s done such a wonderful job being a mom,” Cunningham said.
Thanks to a new partnership between Goodwill and CareSource, Clark County mothers are now eligible for the program.
CareSource is a nonprofit, multistate health plan organization with a focus on Medicaid.
While Goodwill was already covering much of Southern Indiana, CareSource stepped up to provide funding for a specialty nurse to work with low-income, pregnant mothers in other areas including Clark County.
“This partnership is so important to CareSource, as we are confident our members enrolled in the Nurse-Family Partnership program will experience improved short- and long-term outcomes for mothers and their children,” said Steve Smitherman, Indiana CareSource president. “It is a high priority for CareSource to assist in supporting the Governor’s initiative to reduce Indiana’s high infant mortality rate. Through this program, we hope to provide our members with the care they need to deliver healthy babies and create better futures for themselves and their children.”
The program launched in 2011 in Indianapolis and has since expanded to serve 30 Hoosier counties. The initiative pairs mothers expecting their first child with a nurse to support a healthy pregnancy and positive start to the baby’s life.
To qualify, a mother must be less than 28 weeks pregnant, have no live births and be at 200% of the poverty level or below.
The partnership is intended to curb infant mortality rates. In 2017, Indiana ranked seventh-highest in the nation for infant mortality rate, and Gov. Eric Holcomb has made lowering that unfortunate percentage a priority.
“The nurses work really closely with the families. They meet with them on average about every other week for about two-and-a-half years,” said Lynn Baldwin, director of operation’s for Goodwill’s Nurse-Family Partnership.
The nurse continues to work with the family until the child graduates from the program at the age of 2. Baldwin said the statistics speak for themselves in terms of the success of the program in aiding first-time mothers.
Of the 2020 child graduates, 89% were born at a normal birth weight and 95% were carried full-term.
Extending the service into Clark County thanks to the CareSource funding is another big step for the program, Baldwin continued.
“In Southern Indiana particularly, there’s a lot of substance abuse,” she said. “Our nurses are able to provide resources to the client. They’re able to walk alongside them in that journey if that is a concern they have.”
The effort fits right in with Goodwill’s mission, and the program can help change the lives of mothers and partners as well as of children, Baldwin said.
Poyntz has taken the opportunity and turned it into a pathway forward. She earned her high school degree through Goodwill’s Excel Center, where she also acquired an industry-recognized certification as a pharmacy technician.
She’s been dedicating her time to raising Shiloh, but Poyntz intends to head back to school to study to be a dental hygienist.
Poyntz said the support of her partner nurse and her family has been irreplaceable.
“I feel like a lot of moms don’t want to ask for help because it’s embarrassing, but I recommend asking for as much help as you can get,” she said. “It’s a really great opportunity, especially this program specifically, because they also can get you into other programs.”
While there are other programs available to assist mothers, Cunningham said the Goodwill partnership is different because it provides support for more than a two-year period.
“Some of these girls need that consistency and I think that’s a benefit of our program,” she said. “I think people get the impression that we’re just this nurse who measures your belly and takes your blood pressure, but we’re more than that.”
First-time mothers living in Southern Indiana counties including Clark, Floyd, Harrison and Scott qualify for the partnership.
Self-referrals can be made by calling 317-524-3999, and additional questions can be directed by email to email@example.com.
For more information on the partnership, go to https://www.goodwillindy.org/health/#nfp.