To protect the identity of any one patient, the following is a composite example of some challenges a patient might be facing when referred for support by the PFSC:
Palesa is a 32-year-old patient with a high-risk pregnancy who had a previous pregnancy loss at 24 weeks while living in her country of origin. She requires a surgical procedure at 18 weeks’ gestation with the goal of reducing a preterm delivery. She is continually worried that she’ll suffer another loss.
Due to political instability in her home country, she immigrated to the United States two years ago. Although the patient is linked with an immigration organization, she’s unable to obtain legal employment due to her immigration status. She’s lacking a social support network, relying on a couple of friends, as her family resides in her home country.
Fortunately for this patient and the many others who have similar experiences, the Perinatal Family Support Center (PFSC) at NorthShore University HealthSystem (NorthShore) is here to help.
Despite having significant financial need and transportation barriers, the patient has been able to attend all prenatal appointments in the Community Health Center High-Risk Obstetrics Clinic with Lyft rides provided to and from her home, arranged by her Family Support Specialist. She’s very excited to become a mother but worries about how she’ll be able to care for her baby without the necessary baby items.
She has a strong connection with her Family Support Specialist who joins her at every prenatal appointment. During these appointments, her Family Support Specialist assesses her mood and coping ability and provides brief therapeutic intervention when needed. If necessary, they connect her with useful community support resources.
The end goal of the work the PFSC performs is to empower the patient as a parent and help her create a safe home environment for herself and her baby.
A history of helping
Since 1977, the PFSC has been providing critical psychosocial support and resources to patients like Palesa to promote safe and healthy maternal and fetal outcomes, as well as set families up for success.
Based in NorthShore Evanston Hospital and Highland Park Hospital, the PFSC has worked with more than one-third of the delivering patients in the past year.
Guided by their mission to protect and enhance physical and mental health for high-risk patient populations, the PFSC has become a beacon of hope for countless community members in need of their services. Pregnant patients and their families who face a broad array of challenges in the period prior to and soon after the birth of their infant are referred to the PFSC by their providers for access to socio-environmental and emotional support.
Family Support Specialists, all of whom are master’s-level PFSC team members, use a strength-based approach in working with patients who have one or more psychosocial risk factors. These factors include high-risk pregnancies, transportation barriers to attending prenatal appointments, housing instability, financial need, under-treated or untreated mental health issues, difficulty accessing behavioral health services in their community, or significant relationship stressors that could impact their and their baby’s safety both during pregnancy and postpartum.
The goal of PFSC’s work is to promote both physical and emotional wellbeing for our delivering patients, which in turn contributes toward improved maternal and fetal outcomes, stability within the family unit and, ultimately, a safe environment for the baby.
Supporting those who support families
The generosity of countless friends and donors has been key to the PFSC’s success in helping our community. In fact, the PFSC’s origin was the result of a philanthropic grant at Evanston Hospital. Since that time, many community-based agencies and charities have continued to support the PFSC’s mission to help patients and their families.
For more than 10 years, Infant, Inc.—a nonprofit organization run solely by volunteers—provided basic newborn items for layettes. These items included things such as onesies and swaddling or receiving blankets, which PFSC staff gave to patients who needed these basic necessities after the birth of their infant. Between Evanston and Highland Park Hospitals, up to 25 layettes were given to patients each year.
Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impact on smaller charities, Infant, Inc., closed its doors in 2020. However, the need for these basic baby necessities continues in the North Shore community.
To meet their patients’ needs and ensure a healthy start for each newborn infant, the PFSC continues to create layettes thanks to generous support from private benefactors, as well as the NorthShore Associate Board. They even started an Amazon Baby Registry that enables anyone to purchase layette items and other baby supplies for PFSC patients. This support will have a direct impact on nurturing healthy and happy families in our community.
I cannot begin to convey the surprise, gratitude and relief our patients express when PFSC staff is able to provide items for their baby. As parents, our primary role is to protect and provide for our children. Imagine feeling like you’re unable to do so—that your baby won’t have clean clothing to go home in, blankets to keep him warm, a safe place to sleep. This can create feelings of embarrassment, guilt and inadequacy, sometimes undermining a parent’s self-confidence and competence. This, in turn, can impact parental mood and functioning, which may ultimately impact the baby.”
—Janet Winslow, LCSW, PFSC Supervisor
If you would like to help the Perinatal Family Support Center support their patients by providing necessary basic baby items, please visit their Amazon Baby Registry.
You can also support the PFSC with a donation to help them in their mission to nurture healthy babies and families in our community.