Jeff: Thank you Cindy so much for doing this for the Durham Connects blog. If you wouldn't mind, start with talking to us about what program you work for and what your program does.
Cindy: I work for Welcome Baby- it's a family resource center here in Durham. We provide a variety of services. One of our most popular and frequented programs is the Giving Closet-families can come select clothing, baby items, diapers and formula six times a year. We also have a Car Seat Safety Program-families can participate in a single session car seat safety class and purchase a car seat for as little as $10.00, depending on family income and we do hospital visits, which is how Welcome Baby started 26 years ago. We also offer a variety of evidenced based Positive Parenting Curriculums. All of our services are available in English and Spanish .
Jeff: And this is available for all families in Durham?
Cindy: Yes-we are not income based. We serve the entire Durham community that are expecting and or have children under 5.
Jeff: So you would say your program is a universal program for Durham County residents.
Cindy: Yes. And we are a great referral agency as well. So we know lots of partners in the community and can help connect families.
Jeff: That's fantastic. Do you still have the Cribs for Kids program?
Cindy: Yes-we do.
Jeff: That's a program where anyone can get a pack and play and it's …
Cindy: $10.00 to the families and $50.00 is the cost for us. We are entering our 6th program year and we've distributed close to 800 cribs and we've raised over $60,000. As you know the program started at Durham Connects. We don't receive any direct funding and we do all the fundraising ourselves. We've never had a wait-list which is very nice and we rely on our partners in the community that make home visits to assess the sleep situation and then make the referral to us.
Jeff: So you mentioned Welcome Baby started 26 years ago in the hospital. Do you mind talking a little bit about that history?
Cindy: Sure. It was really a volunteer organization and we were the welcome wagon of Durham- so greeting families with new babies and I think back then they got a little gift basket and some information on community resources, coupons, etc. Then we slowly started to grow into a little larger program and we took on the Car Seat Safety program and then had the Giving Closet-Welcome Baby was located in the Lakewood Shopping Center for a long time. Then they started to introduce single topic workshops with families and they did that for 8 years and then began (when the evidence based curriculums came out) to train facilitators and did a paradigm shift from the single topics to the multi-week series curriculum.
Jeff: So how long have you been with Welcome Baby?
Cindy: I just completed 5 years this past summer.
Jeff: What is your exact title here at Welcome Baby?
Cindy: My informal title here is Parent Educator and then the official county title is Community Service Outreach Coordinator and the Cribs for Kids Coordinator.
Jeff: You mentioned how you are in the hospitals and that's how you see some clients, how are some other ways that families find out about Welcome Baby?
Cindy: Pregnancy Care Management, Health Department, Durham Connects, Healthy Families Durham, Durham Early Head Start, EDCI, Pre-K Program. We’ve done some lunch and learns with Blue Cross Blue Shield, Durham County, we are talking with SAS about doing some workshops with them. We outreach and we've been working at the Durham Rescue Mission, Genesis Home, Cascades. I met someone recently from Housing for New Hope, We hope to talk to them about offering Positive Parenting Curriculum to their clients. We do a lot of outreach and we're always happy to talk about Welcome Baby.
Jeff: You did mention a lot of practitioners, do you have a large social media reach too?
Cindy: I think it's growing, we don't have a social media coordinator, you'd be looking at her. We have been talking to our families about connecting with us on Facebook, it's faster and easier for us to post things on our Facebook page than our website. And a lot of times we will just decide to do something fun and we don't have enough time to post it on the website so we use our Facebook page. We use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Good Reads.
Jeff: That's good! You mentioned you've been doing this for 5 years. In those 5 years what has changed in terms of the way you all provide services?
Cindy: We don't rely on people finding out about us through newsletters and registering that way, our recruitment has changed and we are broader now by seeking agencies like Genesis Home. I think we are known throughout the community now.
Jeff: Have you noticed any trends in the last 5 years that have changed? Family’s needs changing? Or who is receiving your services?
Cindy: We serve a fairly broad community. We are not income based, every Durham family may need support at some point. There has been, although we would like to see more of it, a paradigm shift and the stigmatism is not so heavy now that "oh you need a parenting class? You must not be a good parent." Which is not true! When we are talking with families that are coming through the Giving Closet that's a big recruitment opportunity for us. We aren't saying you are a bad parent but we are saying we can offer you information and we aren't here to judge you but we are here to support you.
Jeff: What is the most common question that you receive about your services?
Cindy: If there is a fee associated with our services. When families find out that it's free for anyone, they are so excited. Also, confidentiality is a big issue for families, on the very first night of class we reassure attendees this is confidential. We can't offer strategies and support if we don't understand where families are coming from. We try and make it a safe place for families to share and the stories stay within our four walls.
Jeff: Does the eligibility criteria ever come up? Do people say "I didn't know you were universal but that's great to know!" Have you had to struggle with that stigmatism of being income based?
Cindy: Yes-Even for Giving Closet. We are in the realm of reuse and recycle. Our baby clothes a lot of times look pristine and brand new because they've been worn once. Even from an ecological standpoint-just come use our services even if you can afford to buy brand new clothes.
Jeff: That's really good to hear! You make a great point-anybody can come here as long as you've paid it forward and the items aren't damaged.
Cindy: And families that use Giving Closet, we often see them coming back to donate things that they don't need anymore.
Jeff: What are some common barriers/obstacles that you see that if they were taken away, would help you do your job better?
Cindy: Again, I think the stigmatism it still exists-if we can start to erase that even more. Transportation is still a barrier. We do have funding to provide transportation but it's not perfect. Again, they are already taking 2 hours out of their day to come to class and when they have to tack on an hour for pick up and an hour... sometimes I don't think they get home until 9:00 pm depending on the number of families we have on transportation. I think it helps that we are out in the community providing services so families don't necessarily have to travel as far.
Jeff: And when you are doing the parenting classes is childcare provided?
Cindy: Currently, we are able to provide childcare, meals and transportation for our families.
Jeff: If there was one thing you could tell practitioners that work with the same population or have the ability to reach this population, what would it be?
Cindy: Just getting to know the family and not just giving them a list of agencies-because families probably won't take the time to call. But if you have a conversation with the family you can pick up on what resources they may need. Ways to connect them to specific agencies. I don't think families necessarily sit on the phone and call around.
Jeff: In terms of talking to practitioners about understanding families. What would be one thing you would tell them?
Cindy: Go ahead and ask specific questions. "What can I do for you?" It's easy for families to say "I don't need help." I think if we re-frame the question and say "I'm here for you -what can I do for you?" Or if you notice there isn't a car in the driveway and they aren't on a bus line-"What ways can I help you access transportation?"
Jeff: If you had a magic wand and you could do anything with it, what would you do?
Cindy: I would make a family resource truck rodeo. I would take every program on the road and go from community to community. I would have the Giving Closet, the Diaper Bank, WIC, Medicaid and we would go over to Holton Career Center, Cheek road and Guess Road. We don't get a lot of families from that side of town. And again, logistically if they don't have transportation it's really hard to get here.
Jeff: I like that idea! If you could take one picture that represented what you do and the outcomes that you hope to achieve, what would it be? What would you take a picture of?
Cindy: One of the families we were working with one year, somebody asked them, "Why did you decide to come to Welcome Baby? General information?" And one mom had a tear rolling down her eye and she said "I just want to stop saying NO. I feel like I'm mean and I just say NO all the time." And for her to walk away after 8 weeks of a series and say "I don't have to say no anymore." To have a more positive relationship for adults and children. I don't think parents feel any better than kids do about negativity, yelling or using physical punishment. If it's just one strategy that families walk away with, I think it's a real opportunity for them to build upon it.
Jeff: If I were to get in your car right now and turn on your radio or CD player what would I hear?
Cindy: So it depends on what time of day. In the morning it's generally classic rock, to get the day started, and in the afternoon it can be country or jazz depending on my mood.
Jeff: And what would be some of the classic rock bands that we would hear?
Cindy: The Eagles. Journey is my favorite! Phil Collins.
Jeff: What about country bands?
Cindy: Carrie Underwood, Jason Aldean.
Jeff: Are in you a band right now?
Cindy: Am I in a band right now?! No I am not!
Jeff: If you could start a band right now, what instrument would you play?!
Cindy-Oh, the drums!
Jeff: What genre of music would you play and what instrument would you play?
Cindy: The Blues-I don’t listen to it on the radio but we love to go and listen to blues music.
Jeff: Would you sing?
Cindy: You know, I cannot sing.
Jeff: When you’re flipping through the television, what is the one show that comes on TV and you always stop to watch it? Doesn’t matter if you have seen it 500 hundred times!
Cindy: Guilty pleasure-Gilmore Girls.
Jeff: Oh, okay! Have you seen the whole series?
Cindy: Multiple times.
Jeff: Multiple times, okay! Well my guilty pleasure is Big Brother! I love that show. What is the one household chore/daily life activity that everyone else seems to hate but you secretly love to do?
Cindy: Vacuum. Nobody wants to vacuum. When we had carpet, I would vacuum myself out of a room because its perfect-there's no footprints.
Jeff: Do you have a special awesome vacuum that you use?
Cindy: No, we actually hate our vacuum and we can’t wait for this one to die but we can’t buy a new one until this one is on its last.
Jeff: What is one interesting fact about you that not a lot of people know.
Cindy: I recently joined an all-women’s roofing crew.
Jeff: An all woman’s roofing crew…wow!
Jeff: Please explain what that is!
Cindy: We roof houses for Durham Habitat. I got on the mailing list and I don't know how they knew about me though! You don't have to know anything about roofing. I was out of town the first week and then contacted them again and said “Again, I don’t know anything about roofing!” And she said “You don’t have to know anything about roofing!” So we are finishing up one right now and we are starting up another one on Saturday so it’s kind of a fun thing! It's kind of a cool thing.
Jeff: Does your crew have t-shirts yet?
Cindy: We are in the midst of designing, our tagline is "I'd rather roof it than clean it."
Jeff: That’s really good! Well, awesome that is it. Thank you so much for doing this!
Jeff: What program do you work for or what umbrella would you say you are under?
Bill: I'm a clinical social worker but right now under case management but I have faculty appointments and The Dept. of Psychiatry and Ob/Gyn.
Jeff: In this capacity what do you do?
Bill: I was the director of the postpartum support program for 20 years. In the past it was a support group but it has disbanded but now I'm a resource. People either call me or come in and we have informal chats which I can both assess what are their needs and try and connect them resources or provide short term counseling.
Jeff: And that is typically around postpartum depression?
Bill: Anything related to pregnancy and postpartum which really covers any number of situations
Jeff: Do you mind going into what some of those situations could be?
Bill: Well, sometimes it can be that somebody thought that they were going to be really excited about their pregnancy and in fact they are very anxious. It could be somebody thought they were going to be really happy but after they've had the baby they are in fact feeling sad. It might be that somebody had a very difficult labor and delivery and are having a reaction to that. It might be that somebody finds themselves without the support they were hoping for. It could be that they are having trouble with their partner, it could be that-you know there used to be a book that we could recommend "This Isn't What I Expected" and sometimes when I say that to mothers they say that's exactly what I'm dealing with right now. But sometimes it can also be termination of a wanted pregnancy because of fetal anomalies. It can be dealing with a child with special needs and reactions to that. So any number of things that are related.
Jeff: That’s fantastic-That's really helpful to hear because a lot of folks thought maybe it was just postpartum depression that you focused on. A lot of these issues come up with the moms that we see.
Bill: That’s right.
Jeff: You said you had the support group for twenty years. How long would you say you've provided these services?
Bill: Probably 25 years. I've been in the high risk obstetrics clinic -it will be going on twenty years.
Jeff: How would you say most clients find out about you or practitioners?
Bill: A lot of pediatricians and obstetricians have come to know about me partly because I work in a site that trains OBGYNs and many of them go on to practice in the community. But then I think word has basically gotten out that I'm somebody that if a patient calls me I get them in to see me very quickly and I get them connected very quickly. And although we no longer have a group here, there are several groups in the region and I try to connect people if that's what's indicated. Also, sometimes people need a medication assessment and because I also have connections within the Dept. of Psychiatry, I can sometimes work it out for somebody to be seen sooner rather than later.
Jeff: That's great! That's fantastic. So you mentioned you've been working in this field for about 25 years. What would you say has changed over the past 25 years in the way you've provided services or what issues have come up.
Bill: I want to think, and I think it's largely true, there is less of a stigma these days associated with saying "I need help". I think there is greater awareness that postpartum depression is so common. I think among providers, more and more people are being screened and more and more people are asking the question. I think partly because they also know that if somebody screens positive for depression they can send that person to me. So I think this helps them think about asking the questions. And Durham Connects has also been a great resource to refer people to me.
Jeff: Have you noticed anything else in the community that's in the past 10-15 years, that's really aligned services or started conversations more so than not.
Bill: Durham happens to be a very resource rich community and as you know programs like Early Head Start, Center for Child and Family Health and Durham Connects, I think that there really is a patchwork of services with people talking to each other. I think we're in a good situation here.
Jeff: What is the most common question you receive about either the services you provide or the realm that you are in?
Bill: I think a lot of times people will call in and say, "I don't know if this is postpartum depression or not." as though it is something like Diabetes or the Measles where you can say this is something you have. And for me I really think it's what I would consider postpartum distress which I think it can cover anxiety it can cover depression and so often, almost always if I hear their story and I hear what it is that is contributing to their distress, it becomes very clear to me what is needed. It can often be a combination of concrete help, somebody to talk to, medication assessment, help in the household, relationship help. Very often I think mothers who are distressed are feeling that way because they simply don't have the support in their lives and this whole notion it takes a village-it does take a village. Some of our mothers have two babies and for them it takes two villages. It's not uncommon that some of these mothers will have zero support and it's very painful to hear that.
Jeff: I would almost think that if someone calls and says "I'm not sure if this is postpartum depression." even if it isn't that's still something that's bothering you that needs to be addressed.
Bill: As far as I’m concerned, if it's within the first year after having a baby let's call it postpartum depression, which can include anxiety, depression and distress. It's one thing if you are a researcher and you want to say OK we've got to have this criteria, but if you are a practitioner anything that fits under the realm of distress, I think can go into that category.
Jeff: What are some of the barriers or obstacles you see that if they were taken away would help you do your job better?
Bill: If I had five more days in the week.
Jeff: Or five more of you!
Bill: Five more of me and so on! Right now we don't have a support group in Durham; although we do in Chapel Hill and Raleigh. Another question that comes up is if we have a group for Spanish speaking mothers which we do not. When someone is in need of a medication evaluation, typically these are not women that can wait a month, in a perfect world we would have access to psychiatrist or mental health provider they could see right away.
Jeff: If there was one thing you could tell an up and coming practitioner or even you 20 years ago, what would you say to them?
Bill: Well when I first started in this and I knew how prevalent postpartum depression was (at least 10%). Every mother has a story and if you listen you learn why she's distressed. One of the things I think is so important to say to mothers is to get across the concept of the "good enough mother". Help them understand that perfection has no meaning and that if their needs are taken care of, like the old airplane analogy-put the oxygen mask on yourself first, this will help them be the best possible mother. This idea that it takes a village. If they are out there trying to do this by themselves they will feel overwhelmed, this doesn't say anything suggesting that they are inadequate, that basically the world in which they are living is inadequate. In most cultures there are the grandmothers, the aunts, and the mothers that nurture the mother, take the baby from the mother bring her food, etc while she rests and recovers. We have less and less of that in our mobile society. So when mothers don't have that and are trying to raise their baby by themselves it's no wonder that they feel distressed. Sometimes simply reminding mothers of this can be very useful and helps to depathologize what they are experiencing.
Jeff: This might be a hard question to answer but you've brought it up you've been successful because you've had great outcomes with parents and we at Durham Connects absolutely love you and think you do fantastic work
Bill: Well I love you too!
Jeff: Anytime someone mentions your name a smile comes on their face. What would you say has made you as successful as you are?
Bill: I think I've learned really about listening to people. I saw a mother yesterday, she's almost a mother, she's somebody again that's new to this area by herself because the father of the baby is living in a different state. At the end I told her I thought she was going to be OK and I thought she was going to be a good mother and of course I only said that because I believe it but I think she really needed to hear it. I was able to get her in quickly and I think everybody has a fundamental need to feel listened to. I think that's probably been my strongest asset, that I know how to listen and I think I convey a sense of being non-judgmental and supportive.
Jeff: I could go on and on about what you are good but we would like your head to fit when you go out the door. So what is your favorite thing about working in the Durham community?
Bill: I love the Durham Community because of its heterogeneity. There's really a mix of people from different backgrounds, races, socioeconomic points of view or socioeconomic status. There's really an opportunity to mingle and get to know people from all different walks of life and of course what you find is there is so much overlap yet there's also distinct differences.
Jeff: If you had a magic wand, what would you do with it? In order to help with your patients or your clients in the realm that you work in?
Bill: I think for some people, I would ask them to really think through before they have a baby anytime soon. I think if I had a magic wand maybe I would have a support group that had childcare there and transportation. I would have fathers be much more involved in the care and welfare of their children. I would make all the buildings safe that our mothers were living in. And world peace!
Jeff: If you had a camera and you could take one picture that represented what you do, what do you think you would take a picture of?
Bill: It would be conveying to patients that we care about them and this is what I try and instill in my interns as well. So often when they first start here they think their role is to connect people with resources and while that's a part of the role, what I want them to come round to is this idea that what is essential to convey to the patients is that we care about them, that we get to know them that we get to enter their world and through that see how we can be of help.
Jeff: If you could start a band right now, what genre of music would your band play and what instrument would you play?
Bill: Well I actually played in a band and the name of the band was Sixties Souvenirs and I played keyboard, guitar and saxophone. We played all kinds of sixties music- Beatles and all of that, so it would be along those lines.
Jeff: Were you the lead singer?
Jeff: If I jumped in your car right now, what would I find in your CD player?
Bill: You would find a range of things. Everything from the songs nominated for Grammys in the past year, some folk music, rock music, classical music.
Jeff: You're flipping through the TV and a show comes on and you stop and you have to watch, what is that show?
Bill: It's going to be 60 minutes, Point of View on PBS-the documentaries, an occasional football game. Last night I taped the Cubs winning and I watched that this morning.
Jeff: Are you a Cubs fan?
Bill: I am!
Jeff: I’m sorry! Well, that’s it…that’s all the questions I have. Thank you so much Bill for doing this, I really appreciate it.
Bill: Sure, sure my pleasure!