GROWTH with Doulas and Dads

For over 40 years, early childhood providers and society-at-large have struggled to find more effective ways to reach young, at-risk parents whose children are less likely to do well in school.  GROWTH Doulas is a program designed by and to be delivered through the collaborative efforts of REACHUP, Inc. (RU), Champions for Children, and United Cerebral Palsy of Tampa.

The intent of the GROWTH Doula program is to positively impact early parenting behaviors by increasing social support and early parenting skills among participants, with a focus on breastfeeding.  Extensive outreach with providers and community organizations will be conducted to engage and serve pregnant women whose infants are at highest risk for poor health, social and cognitive outcomes and whose infants would benefit most from breastfeeding.  With an enhanced referral system, the program will engage and serve women and families with the following risk factors: weak or no social support; less than a high school education, adolescent; incarceration; homelessness; affected by natural disaster; positive depression screen; substance abuse; history of physical and sexual abuse; and/or a serious chronic medical condition like high blood pressure or diabetes.

The key component of this program will be the utilization of doulas.  A doula (pronounced “doo la”, also known as a labor coach and originating from the ancient Greek word doula meaning female servant or slave) is a nonmedical person who assists a woman before, during, or after childbirth, as well as her partner and/or family by providing information, physical assistance, and emotional support.

The overall goal of a doula is for the mother to feel safe and comfortable with her experience. The kinds of support provided during childbirth may include physical assistance and comfort (massage, maintaining a supporting posture or providing water), emotional support (providing company, encouragement or simply talking in a soothing tone of voice), information (advice or the progress of the childbirth), and acting as an advocate for the woman undergoing childbirth, working in concert with the medical team.

Population Served: Medically and/or socially at risk pregnant women in Hillsborough County
Eligibility Criteria: At risk pregnant women living in Hillsborough County and delivering at a hospital in Hillsborough County
Referral Process: Can attend one of weekly classes, referral by case manager or labor and delivery personnel
Bilingual Services: Available                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              For Inquiries and Enrollment: 813-712-6300

Funder: The Children’s Board of Hillsborough County



The National Fatherhood Initiative’s (NFI) 24/7 Dad® Program

The National Fatherhood Initiative’s (NFI) 24/7 Dad® Program is a comprehensive fatherhood program available with innovative tools, strategies, and exercises for fathers of all races, religions, cultures, and backgrounds!

Research shows that a major barrier to father involvement is a lack of skills in dads, many of whom grew up without fathers in their lives. At a time when 1 in 3 children live in father-absent homes, REACHUP, Inc., funded by the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County, is delighted to be able to help dads in our community get involved utilizing the 24/7 Dad® Program.

Developed by fathering and parenting experts for the National Fatherhood Initiative, the 24/7 Dad® Program focuses on the characteristics that men need to be involved fathers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This community-based program helps men develop the attitudes, knowledge, and skills they need to get — and stay — involved with their children. 24/7 Dad® focuses on the following topics: family history; what it means to be a man; showing and handling feelings; men’s health’ communication; the father’s role; discipline; children’s growth; getting involved; working with mom and co-parenting; dads and work assessing fathering skills.

REACHUP, Inc. offers the 24/7 Dad® Program in English and Spanish in three formats:

Group presentations (two-hour sessions per week for 6 weeks or one-hour sessions per week for 12 weeks)
Weekend retreats
One-on-one sessions

Participants selecting any of these formats can also opt to participate in case management services to address other situations, such as employment, housing, education, physical and mental health, etc., that are barriers to becoming better fathers.



Stress Management Series

Stress is a significant contributing factor to many adverse outcomes. Among Black/African American women, stress has been linked to the onset of depression during pregnancy and postpartum. Mothers are often depressed because of medical conditions related to pregnancy or following delivery including hypertension, infection, and recovery from surgery. Loneliness and abandonment, as well as external factors such as financial difficulties, employment concerns, lack of social support, lack of support from a partner, and sibling care may contribute to additional stress, which culminates in fatigue associated with the accumulation of stressful circumstances.

The link between prolonged psychosocial stressors and the physiological responses to those conditions is well established. Chronic stress compromises the immune defenses, hormonal balance, and vascular functioning. Allostatic load, as the imbalance between the bombardment of stressors and the body’s inability to recalibrate, has been linked to the development of chronic diseases and to adverse birth outcomes. In the particular case of poor birth outcomes, it has been proposed that the accumulative stressors proceeding pregnancy and birth pose significant risk for birth outcomes. Because the explanations for premature birth encompass conditions linked to immune and hormonal functioning and both are associated with chronic stress exposure, it is critical to mediate the ill-effects of chronic stress during pregnancy.

The Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) is the most widely used psychological instrument for measuring the perception of stress. It is a measure of the degree to which situations in one’s life are appraised as stressful. Items were designed to tap how unpredictable, uncontrollable, and overloaded respondents find their lives. The scale also includes a number of direct queries about current levels of experienced stress. The PSS was designed for use in community samples with at least a junior high school education. The items are easy to understand, and the response alternatives are simple to grasp. Moreover, the questions are of a general nature and hence are relatively free of content specific to any subpopulation group. The questions in the PSS ask about feelings and thoughts during the last month. In each case, respondents are asked how often they felt a certain way.

The Stress component which has proven success fits within the Special Delivery Doula contract and will expand its services to the 24/7 Dad program. During the past three fiscal years, REACHUP, Inc.’s 24/7 Dad Program has served over 250 men in five zip code areas. Of the men served, 60% were in need of housing, employment and transportation in order to move forward. Though many had health challenges, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and hypertension, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other mental health issues, obesity, and threat of violence, they did not seek health care even when available in the community. The existence of the stress and social networking component will be an expansion to what is offered to the participants in the weekend retreats. The existence of the stress and social networking component will be an expansion to what is offered to the participants, easily serving as an enhancement to Session 4, Men’s Health, in the weekend retreats. This session focuses on 1) Stress and Anger and 2) Physical Health.

Additionally, our understanding of men’s health from both research and practice, makes it clear that masculinity and manhood play a significant role in men’s health and men’s health behavior. Thus, we believe that enhancing and utilizing our already developed male involvement program will potentially serve as the most effective intervention model. Since we already have the attention of men (and women) in our community, we are readily able to identify individual and community characteristics and values that impact their health attitudes and behaviors. This includes addressing situations not typically considered men’s health issues, like homicide, motor vehicle accidents, and family stress.

The stress and social networking component will be an expansion to what is offered to our prenatal and Interconception participants enrolled in Central Healthy Start, Nurse Family Partnership residing in the targeted zip codes. The Central Hillsborough Healthy Start Project’s 4 Peer Support Groups (Prenatal, Interconception, Breastfeeding, and Clinical) reinforce project messages and emphasize social interaction with other women in the groups. Additional skills are taught aimed at changing behaviors and lifestyles for parents. They are also given the opportunity to increase their knowledge on how to be at their healthiest through behavior changes. The Peer Support Group provides information on mental health and the difference between stress and depression. REACHUP, Inc.’s Let’s Talk About it stress workshops will be invited to facilitate 4 week sessions educating the program participants on how to identify stress and equip them with strategies on how to address their stress. As a result of participating, the Healthy Start participants will learn how reduce anxiety that may arise in daily life. This is also a place for women to share common concerns and emotional support.

The program has consistently received requests and referrals from participants outside the 33607 zip code. In hand, the project has 75 referrals/intake forms from families from the following zip codes requesting stress management services (33602, 33603, 33604, 33605, 33610, 33617 and 33619). The ability to recruit participants in expanded zip codes will be a natural process for the Stress Management program team and will fit well within the REACHUP, Inc. organizational structure.

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