As four moms sat together around a blanket in the Magnolia Project’s meeting room, their babies wiggling and cooing in the middle, they slowly realized their commonalities — the challenges of new motherhood, the family members with unsolicited advice, the everyday struggles of housing, employment and putting food on the table.
By the end of the session, they had adopted a nickname for themselves — the Magnolia Moms of Empowerment — and were swapping phone numbers and planning play dates.
These mothers were taking part in the first CenteringParenting program at Magnolia. The classes are an evidence-based group well-child visit model that complements the existing on-site group prenatal care classes provided there. But the classes aren’t just weight checks and check-ups. They’re designed to provide support and give new parents the confidence and understanding to help their child’s health and development.
CenteringParenting features a provider and support staff who lead a group of parents with children around the same age in a discussion and interactive activities on topics including attachment, safe sleep, breastfeeding, nutrition, early literacy, development and safety.
Every so often a question would come up in the Magnolia moms conversation that they needed to turn to an expert for. Pediatrician Dr. Mikah Owen was there to answer questions and provide guidance to families. As a new dad himself, he was also able to give insight into a father’s perspective. The classes are facilitated by Odille Thomas, RN, who also facilitates the group prenatal care classes.
The Healthy Start Coalition received a two-year grant from The Chartrand Family Fund at The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida to provide the group parenting classes. The Fund focuses on early childhood education, K-12 public education reform, and social and emotional mental health for children and youth. The initiative is implemented at the Magnolia Project, the Coalition’s federal Healthy Start program.