Maria’s Hope has finally started Mentor Mondays at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital at Westchester Medical Center. I am so proud to say that after four years of meetings, trainings and a lot of red tape- I was finally able to get this program off the ground!
Our mentor program is called Maria’s Hope, and it is named after our hospital’s namesake Maria Fareri. You can read about Maria and her legacy by visiting https://www.mariafarerichildrens.org/history.
Maria’s Hope is a parent-based volunteer organization that provides emotional support and mentoring services to parents with babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital at Westchester Medical Center. We support parents of premature babies, babies born with special health care needs, and those who have experienced a loss due to these or other complications through one-on-one conversations. We support all parents, independent of their race, national origin, or religion. We do not provide medical advice or offer medical services.
We are NICU parents who provide one-on-one support to NICU parents.
A paper published by some of the NICU advocacy colleagues shows that research supports creating peer-to-peer support groups for parents with babies in the NICU, whether they were premature or full-term. You can read their findings HERE. I used this research to help me gain traction for my program and it worked 🙂
Each of us experienced the trauma of having a baby in the NICU for an extended period of time. Our mentors include Donna Zion and Debra Randazzo from Hailey’s Hope Foundation, Patti Ranieri, Kristyn Walsh, Emily Ritschl, Briana Tortoso, and me 🙂
We have mentors available for meetings each Monday between 11 am – 1 pm and 5 pm – 7 pm. I typically mentor in the evenings as I am s full-time teacher, like a few of our mentors, but I look forward to the opportunity to mentor during the day during the summer.
I longed for another NICU parent to talk to throughout the four months that my daughter was in the NICU (and after). Her extremely premature birth and trauma to my whole family left us an emotional disaster that we had no time to clean up. You can read my story HERE. Although I had A LOT of support from family and friends, I wanted and could have benefitted from a conversation with another parent who experienced what I did and felt what I felt.
Maria’s Hope has a phone extension at the hospital and we regularly check our voicemail so that parents can leave us a message and let us know that they are interested in talking to us. When we arrive on Mondays, we seek out those parents who requested to speak to us and then we walk the floor and go room to room to introduce ourselves and see if any parents want to talk.
We have a polo shirt, too 🙂
It has been my experience so far that parents want and need to talk to another parent who has experienced something similar and our mentors don’t actually talk very much at all- we mostly listen.
Getting this program to fruition has been a HUGE undertaking for me and taken a lot of time and energy (about four years to be exact) but it is worth every minute. We all had to complete an 8-hour hospital training session, a training in diversity, meetings with the hospital social worker, a background check, physical exam, vaccinations, and many meetings as a group. Again, it was all worth it and we wanted to get it right! I was so proud when I finally picked up my I.D. badge.
Having a baby in the NICU for any period of time can be traumatizing to parents. Trauma lies in the eye of the beholder and if conversations with a mentor can prevent the onset of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) or PMAD (Perinatal Mood Anxiety Disorder), then we accomplished our mission.
Please visit our website at https://mariashope.weebly.com/.
I’m hoping to drop the “weebly” part of our website once we secure some funding, but for now we will use the free version 🙂
Thank you again for continued support.
Please send our website out to any NICU parents who need support. We have a great Resource Page with information about online support, books and more. You can view that HERE.
I want to thank Elizabeth Klein from The Tiny Miracles Foundation (an excellent preemie parent support for Connecticut NICUs), Lisa Grubbs from NICU Helping Hands, Krisy Love from the National Perinatal Association, and Dr. Sue Hall for all of your advice and recommendations during this process. Your support is vey much appreciated.
If you interested in donating money to help us offer more training for our mentors and gifts to our NICU parents, please call Kevin Cook at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital. He is the Principal Gifts Officer and he can make sure donations go to a specific program. His number is 914-493-2504, and he can be reached by email at: Kevin.Cook@WMCHealth.org
I am so excited at Maria’s Hope has started mentoring NICU parents and I look forward to what else we can accomplish in the future.