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How Home Visiting Support Leads to Service

A story of how a home visitor's bond with a mother propelled her into a career where she extends the same support to other moms.

Fatima, Orlance, and Mahlia smile at the camera.

When Fatima became pregnant in 2015, she and her husband, Orlance, had planned the pregnancy. But when baby Mahlia arrived, life was far from the serene experience Fatima anticipated.

Instead, it was marked by an emergency c-section and a resuscitation. Despite Mahlia's recovery, she proved to be a colicky baby. “We had no family nearby. We needed help. Orlance had no time off…I was alone and could barely move after the c-section. I was struggling. I felt depressed. Mahlia wouldn’t stop crying.”

Fatima believed that surely there was some kind of help for her situation. She decided to walk down to her local library. There she found a resource board with a flyer that said, “Are you a new mom? Do you need support? We have a program for you.” Fatima ripped the paper off the board and connected to a HRSA Home Visiting Program called Parents As Teachers in Columbia, Missouri.

Mahlia, Ms. Christie, and Fatima smile at the camera

“I met my parent educator, Ms. Christie. From the first time she walked into my house, she was just this ray of light,” described Fatima. Fatima learned to navigate the highs and lows of motherhood with newfound confidence. Ms. Christie supported the wide variety of needs Fatima had, from helping her to understand her baby’s developmental stages to setting educational goals.

“Ms. Christie supported and pushed me to get my Master’s degree. She helped me make plans that increased my confidence in myself so that I could make this dream—which honestly seemed a bit crazy at the time—a reality.” Fatima overcame her fears, went back to school, and earned a Master’s degree in Education. At the same time as completing her degree, there was an opening at the home visiting program where Ms. Christie worked. Ms. Christie encouraged Fatima to apply for the position.

“I applied. It was one of the best interviews I’ve ever had, and they immediately asked me to take the job. But I was like, ‘Wait. If I take this job, can I keep my home visitor?’ And they said, ‘Yes.’ So I said yes!” Fatima described, beaming with joy.

Mahlia stands next to Malakhi in his stroller. Both are wearing sunglasses.

After a few years, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Fatima and her family welcomed their son, Malakhi. During the pregnancy, they decided it was time to move back to Chicago, closer to their grandparents and extended family. Ms. Christie continued to support Fatima. “She was instrumental in helping me find a doctor as the move came just months before Malahki’s birth. Ms. Christie even helped us with our move.”

Fatima did want to work again after settling into life in Chicago. She knew home visiting was a national program, but she had felt her job in Missouri had been “one of a kind.” But once settled in Chicago, serendipity knocked at her door: she found a very special home visiting program embedded at the Primo Center, a shelter serving families.

Fatima, Orlance, and Mahlia stand in front of a moving truck.

“To reach and serve people at the Primo Center was incredibly appealing as I was reaching those most in need” Fatima stated. The Primo Center is the only shelter in the Chicago area providing home visiting services on site.

Fatima now serves as the Maternal Health Coordinator, providing a variety of services to make sure moms and families are supported. She feels that one of the best lessons Ms. Christie taught her was that, “Parents can be hard on themselves a lot of the times and have some really high expectations. Just take a step back and really focus on the basics of your kid’s needs and you will raise healthy, happy adults.” Fatima brings that sentiment to her work to encourage the families that she serves. Her positive outlook coupled with her hard work helps create that better world she is seeking.

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