http://www.centralpennparent.com/January-2014/Finding-a-second-start/

Finding a second start

By Nicole Rita

Being a single mother is tough. Being a single mother and trying to finish school in addition to working a job, is even tougher. And with a lack of a support system, it can seem almost impossible. 

But there’s a program in Dauphin County that can help.

The Hamilton Health Center in Harrisburg offers Healthy Start. The aim of the program is to offer support to pregnant and post-partum women as well as their children and families by assisting with healthcare and providing support services.

Each woman is assigned a case manager to help them with doctor appointments, child birth classes and more.

Reaching goals

Tiara Chambers is a 21-year-old mother of three and is expecting her fourth child. A native of Harrisburg, she first heard about Healthy Start from her younger sister who was part of the program while Chambers was pregnant with her second child. After initially contacting the group, she was set up with a case manager, Cece, who plays a big role in Chamber’s life.

“Ever since I’ve been in the program, it’s been lovely. She’s really helped me a lot. I’ve gotten a lot of things I’ve needed to get done,” said Chambers.

One of the biggest benefits of the program Chambers has discovered is the on-call transportation she has been provided. “Whenever I’ve needed to go to the doctor, or my kids need to go to the doctor … Cece would make sure that I got there,” Chambers said. And it’s helped her attain an education. “I went to Kaplan University and graduated last year.”

Maria Ramirez is a 17-year-old mother of a daughter and is currently seven months pregnant with her son.

Healthy Start has allowed her to continue school. “They’ve really helped me out with school. To stay and attend school every day,” Ramirez said. “I graduated from middle school with honors. Right now I’m in 11th and I’m in an honors class.” She said she has high expectations for going to college when she graduates high school. “I’m hoping to go into business then to medical field,” Ramirez said.  

Building relationships

The program also helps the women build relationships with their case managers, other women and even their families.

“At first, when I was pregnant with my daughter, I did have a lot of problems with my parents. So they said I should talk to my parents and gave me advice,” Ramirez said.

“I was really shy to talk about any issues that I had,” Chambers recalled. “Now I find myself telling [my case manager] all my problems … whether it’s about me or a family member that has an issue.”

For information on Greater Harrisburg’s Health Start program, visit http://www.harrisburghealthystart.com/.

 Nicole Rita is a senior at Messiah College and an intern at Central Penn Parent.