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2020 – 2021

Prevention team brings new and expecting moms together in a virtual meeting space

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By Jane Kitchen, Senior Communications Advisor
Originally published on Connections, the SickKids CCMH staff news site
May 28, 2020

Immediately after SickKids CCMH transitioned to a work-from-home model, members of the Prevention team contacted moms and moms-to-be in the seven prenatal and baby groups in the northwest area of Toronto to let them know they would support the moms over the phone.

The team, led by supervisors Joey Nugara and Leona Nugara and staffed by Community Parents who represent a variety of cultures and can speak multiple languages, knew how important it was to keep in touch with the moms-to-be or new moms who were already facing challenges such as food insecurity and isolation before COVID-19.

“These check-ins ended up being a lifeline for a lot of these moms,” says Joey. “We were providing a lot of referrals for service.”

The moms were grateful to hear from the team, but as they were also used to meeting up in-person, they started asking for each other. They missed the social aspect of being together.

As a pilot project, the Community Parent at the Yorkgate site, Ann Daniel, reached out to the moms via phone and email to see if there would be interest to get them together on Zoom.

With the moms expressing enthusiasm, Joey reached out to the local Community Health Centre (CHC), Black Creek, who normally provides space for the prenatal group meetings and who supports a postnatal program, to see if they could support a virtual group.

Prevention team members in a virtual meeting
Clockwise from upper left: Ann, Joey, Sandy and Adele

The group met for the first time on Zoom on May 18 , sharing their welcome song, mindfulness activities and – for all but two women who are still pregnant – their birth stories. They were joined by Black Creek CHC staffers, Adele Isacoff, Community Health Worker and Sandy Martin, Parent Relief Worker, who had been part of the prenatal group. 

“Even over Zoom the moms are supporting each other, encouraging each other, saying ‘you can do this,'” says Daniel.

The next step for the team is to help the group transition into the postnatal group in partnership with the CHC. The team will also help the moms establish a routine, encourage them to take advantage of their community resources for parenting reassurance, such as or following up with their social workers through Black Creek CHC, or calling 211 for services including housing, legal and immediate mental health help.

“The groups offer more than information and service referrals, but a social connection and trust with staff,” says Daniel. “”If we had not built the relationships with the moms before this happened, we wouldn’t have been able to do a virtual meeting.”

The program is built on partnerships, according to Julie Burdon, Manager, Prevention and Early Intervention. “Joey and her team have had a great relationship of working together with partners such as Black Creek CHC to provide programs and service, so the group adaptation in this pilot was easy and successful.”

The group plans on meeting via Zoom at least until the end of June. “We will continue to support these moms, and link them to other programs such as EarlyON, and engage siblings as well,” says Joey. “We remind them of their resiliency, and that they’re not alone in this.”