Building a Community of Support for Latina New Mothers
Posted by Debbie Whitehill
Opening my email recently I was delighted to find a letter from a Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology (MSPP) student named Lauren Utter, M.A. Lauren wrote to share her perspectives about our free weekly support group for Spanish-speaking new mothers, led by Jackie Caceres. Lauren observed this group for several months as part of her training in psychology. We continually solicit and receive helpful feedback from the families we serve, but it was also gratifying to read comments from an impartial observer. She wrote:
Since March I have watched infants and toddlers reach developmental milestones, and see the way in which Jackie guides the mothers through this joyful as well as anxiety-provoking time. The mothers are able to connect with Jackie culturally, as a mother, and as someone who has knowledge in parenting and child development.
The number of mothers that are able to attend each meeting usually varies. The low socioeconomic status of many of the attendees, transportation difficulties, childcare, job flexibility, etc. could easily impact a mother’s attendance. Jackie made sure that the mothers knew that their presence in the groups was valued, although she was very understanding when mothers could not attend. In order to successfully run the groups, Jackie needs to be very flexible and ready to respond to a number of different situations. In a group with new mothers that are struggling within a number of life domains, the needs of the group are always changing. For example, a mother may come to the group exhausted and desperate with an infant who has been sick for the last few days. Jackie and the group members had a natural tendency to focus on the immediate needs of the child and the mother and leave other conversation for a later time. The support and care present among the members of the group was always heartwarming to see. Jackie is constantly reaching out in the community and seeing where there is a need. In addition, the mothers spread word of how much the group has helped them and this influences the decision for new mothers to attend.
At times, the sense of support and responsibility for one another is so great within the group that Jackie does not need to encourage participation or facilitate conversation. It is impressive to see how often the women become engrossed in helping one another through words of support and encouragement.
The value and importance of this group cannot be underestimated. Just the basic act of getting mothers out of the house and to a group where they can feel a sense of community has notable effects on the overall mental and physical health of mothers and their children. I hope that Jackie is able to continue providing New Mothers Groups to an underserved population of mothers and their children.
Psy.D. Candidate, MSPP
Debbie Whitehill, LICSW has been with the JF&CS Center for Early Relationship Support
for eighteen years, leading both the Lauren & Mark Rubin Visiting Moms®
and Support Group
programs. Debbie has completed a comprehensive program manual to facilitate replication of Visiting Moms, which has already been replicated nationally and internationally.