Program aims to equip women as parents

Record Photo by Ruby Thomas
Shalah Bottoms, director of the Family Support & Referral Center at Catholic Charities, stood in the child care room, Oct. 22. A child care worker cares for children in this room while parents attend classes offered by the Mother-Infant Care Program.

By Ruby Thomas, Record Staff Writer

Women who attend Catholic Charities of Louisville’s Mother-Infant Care Program may find they leave better equipped to care for their babies, their finances and their legal rights.

The Mother-Infant Care Program is one of the dozens of ministries and agencies in the Archdiocese of Louisville that receives funding from the annual Catholic Services Appeal.

The program is part of Catholic Charities’ Family Support & Referral Center directed by Shalah Bottoms.

“The main goal is to provide education, resources and support to women entering into parenthood,” said Bottoms during an interview Oct. 22. The program is open to any woman with an infant whether it’s her first child or not.

The Mother-Infant Care Program offers a six-week course for mothers who attend classes on labor and childbirth, breastfeeding, newborn care, alcohol and drug use during pregnancy, safe sleep practices and car seat safety.

The women also learn the basics of handling finances and legal issues, including financial child support and parental rights, said Bottoms.

The women who complete the six-week program receive a large baby item, such as a crib, stroller or a car seat. All the women receive other items, such as soap, baby wipes, diapers and blankets.

Bottoms said the program started in 2000 with the support of the Queen’s Daughters, a service organization that has assisted families for more than a century. Close to 200 women were served by the program during the center’s  2018 fiscal year.

The success of the Mother-Infant Care Program has led to a new initiative called “Family Support on the Go,” which started in January. The “on-the-go” program is meant to bring a “customized” version of the Mother-Infant Care course to parishes and other organizations, said Bottoms. To this end, an eight-week program was launched in late October for women served by the Freedom House, a Volunteers of America residential facility for mothers with a chemical dependency.

The women who attend this program will learn about parental legal rights and responsibilities, father and grandparent rights and how child support affects benefits from the state, said Bottoms. In addition, the mothers will take CPR classes and learn positive ways to discipline their children.

“On-the-go” workshops are also planned for parents at St. Paul School, 6901 Dixie Highway, later this year. The workshops will cover conflict management, bullying and cyber safety, said Bottoms.

Before creating “on-the-go,” the Mother-Infant Care Program had been providing the course to teenage mothers in high school, said Bottoms. The program is four weeks long and is offered to teenage girls in the Jefferson County Public School Teenage Pregnancy Program (TAPP).

The young mothers are taught about labor and birth, breastfeeding, newborn care and basic financial skills, Bottoms said.

While providing education is the main goal of the Mother-Infant Care Program, it’s also important that the women build relationships, she noted.

A support group called “Mama Matters” meets weekly to help the women bond, said Bottoms. Many have very little family support and even smaller social circles, she noted.

The support group gives them the opportunity to “connect to each other, talk about the challenges they face, the joys of motherhood,” said Bottoms. The group has expanded to include women with children under the age of 5 who aren’t participants in the Mother-Infant Care Program, she said.

Bottoms said Catholic Services Appeal contributions make the programs possible. She noted that all the programs offered by the Family Support & Referral Center — including programs for the elderly and young couples interested in adoption — are supported by the CSA funds.

To learn more about the Family Support & Referral Center and the Mother-Infant Care program, visit https://cclou.org/family-support-and-referral-center/.

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