When a family gives birth to a child born prematurely, the stress levels related to normal infancy can skyrocket. One mother whose birth experience was almost fatal and whose child spent the first days of his life in the NICU wrote, “In the fairy tale birth story, the moment you leave the hospital with your new baby is one of the best moments of your life. For me, it was one of the most terrifying. It took almost two years for that fear, guilt and anxiety to subside.”
Unfortunately, her experience isn’t as rare as it should be. The state’s Early Childhood Intervention program helps families with developmental delays, disabilities, or certain medical diagnoses who are up to three years old. In 2018, more than 57,000 children ages newborn to three years old received services from the ECI program. According to the ECI, one of the principles of care include providing families with support and resources as well as providing the infants and toddlers with everyday experiences and interactions.
Volunteers at supporting nonprofits can play a big role in helping these children and their families survive and thrive. Donna McIntire, a peer-support volunteer for Hand to Hold said, “I am often deeply touched by the stories I read and the families I witness being helped by your amazing organization. Families are thrust into this role quite by surprise. This blindside makes them think they did something wrong or they are alone. Quite the opposite!! Not only do they need hands to hold during the NICU experience, early and often, but after they go home when they are usually more isolated and faced with well meaning friends and family that do not understand or appreciate the ongoing and necessary restrictions around public contact, food, sound, scents and so much more. The only way to keep their ‘cup full’ is to have that psychosocial support structure to help them stay strong through the roller coaster ride.”
(If you’re a parent or know someone in need of services, make sure they contact the ECI office and explore their website.)
You can help families and babies born prematurely, experiencing NICU care, and those who are facing the challenges of a disability or medically fragile condition. Here’s how:
Be a NICU Rocker at St. David’s Hopsital – Help provide nurturing and care for NICU infants by rocking and holding them. Must be 25 years old and willing to commit to one year of volunteering. Learn more.
Be a NICU assistant at St. David’s Hospital – Help nursing staff by stocking supplies, checking-in family members, helping with scrub-ins, and performing light administrative work. Learn more.
Support NICU families with Hand to Hold – Provide in-person support to Hand to Hold staff members by assembling parent packets, staffing local events, and performing light administrative duties. Learn more.
Be a peer mentor for NICU families with Hand to Hold – If you’ve been through a NICU experience, you can be trained to provide much-needed support to parents experiencing NICU. As a peer, you can provide comfort, insight, and companionship the parents’ families may not be able to provide. Learn more.
Be a childcare volunteer with Any Baby Can – You can help provide childcare for kids while their parents participate in Any Baby Can parenting classes. Any Baby Can helps families – including families with kids who have developmental delays or special healthcare needs – get a strong start with classes and support. Learn more.
Be a care-giving or classroom volunteer with Sammy’s House – Sammy’s House serves children with and without special needs, but especially those who are considered medically fragile and/or developmentally delayed by providing educational services, occupational, speech, and physical therapies. Learn more.