MotherWise: Transforming the Lives of Underserved Families through Education and Care
The time surrounding the birth of a baby is one of the most stressful for family relationships.
Fortunately, in Denver, there is a program providing education on healthy relationships to disadvantaged women who are pregnant or have newborn babies. The program, MotherWise, is a partnership of the University of Denver and Denver Health that emphasizes relationship education, setting it apart from many other parenting resources in the area.
Through workshops over six to eight weeks at offices located in the Rose Andom Center, the program empowers women to make decisions that are best for them and their families, providing tools and skills that they can use in all relationships in their lives.
“From this workshop I have learned so much,” said one participant of MotherWise. “I was able to figure out my barriers and get though them. I was also able to realize that I was in a toxic relationship and what kind of things kept me in that relationship. MotherWise gave me the strength to be able to leave that relationship, which I am doing now. My number one thing that I have been working on in my life recently was communication because it was just horrible. And MotherWise has helped me get through it.”
MotherWise served 300 families over the course of the past year, and that number is expected to climb to about 500 in the coming year. Women who participate in the program often live far below the poverty level, and they learn about MotherWise through referrals from Denver Health, University of Colorado Hospital or other community agencies.
The education they gain through the program transforms their experience of and approach to parenting. Surveys of participants showed that 99% feel more confident that they have the skills necessary to be an effective parent, 99% know how to handle conflict with their partner/spouse better, and 79% know how to handle money and bills better.
“This program is a great resource to help families with communication,” said another participant of MotherWise. “I'm really happy I attended MotherWise; it helped me grow so much as a person as well as with my relationships with my son and partner.”
In addition to the workshops, MotherWise recently began to expand their services through the work of several interns – three from DU GSPP’s doctorate program, one from DU’s Graduate School of Social Work, and one from Metropolitan State University of Denver – to increase the mental health services offered to participants of the program. Growing the program’s offerings to include therapy is a significant step forward in meeting more of the participants’ needs regarding parenting and healthy relationships.
Support from philanthropy and grants is also advancing that goal. A new grant from the Administration for Children and Families will allow MotherWise to build out the space at the Rose Andom Center and expand their services to serve more families.
Colorado Health Foundation recently made a grant to the Rose Andom Center, with MotherWise and Denver Health as partners, to open a medical clinic at the center. This expansion of services will allow MotherWise participants to receive obstetric care for their prenatal needs, rather than being referred elsewhere. Participants are far more likely to receive medical and therapy services when they are offered at the familiar Rose Andom Center rather than following up on a referral to another clinic. Participants’ children will also be able to receive pediatric care at the new clinic as it provides wide-ranging services for the family unit. Additionally, the new clinic will provide medical care for clients of the Rose Andom Center, a place for domestic violence victims to find support and services.
Even after MotherWise participants complete the workshop experience, they have opportunities to return for additional services and to gather for social events like the annual holiday reunion. This year’s holiday reunion, scheduled for December 5, will feature dinner and a variety of activities for the families: an “ask a pediatrician” booth, information on resources in the community, activities with representatives from the Children’s Museum and the Denver Health pediatric emergency team, a holiday photo booth and more. Most notably, this year’s reunion will feature the proceeds from a toy drive, giving mothers an opportunity to shop for toys for their children. The toy drive is currently going on throughout the city – at eight drop-off locations and electronically through an Amazon registry.
Through education and other services, MotherWise is providing unparalleled support for underprivileged families in the Denver area. Join us in supporting their work through a gift, a toy for the toy drive, or volunteering at the holiday reunion.