When women work together, amazing things happen.
Christine Wasserstein is a retired psychotherapist and is a member of the national NFP’s Board of Directors. She has long been concerned about the effects of poverty on the emotional health of mothers and babies.
Susan Orkin shares Christine’s commitment to mothers and babies; she managed programs for vulnerable families for over 35 years and was an administrator for an NFP program in Pennsylvania.
Each of them recognized the power of promoting good outcomes for babies at the earliest moment possible. Spurred on by their mutual interest in the helping professions and NFP, they decided to work together to help mothers and babies in NYC.
We recently sat down to speak with our founders about the history of Friends of NYC-NFP and its intersection with Women’s History Month. Here’s a brief interview with Susan and Christine:
How did you meet?
CW: We met at Citizens’ Committee for Children’s Community Leadership Course in 2014.
SO: In exploring child advocacy organizations, I came across Citizens for Children of New York, which hosts an annual course for individuals interested in learning about key problem areas that confront low income populations and the agencies that address these challenges. Chris was one of the organizers of the course when I signed up. We became friends because of our mutual interest in Nurse Family Partnership.
What made you decide to partner and create Friends of NYC NFP?
SO: I had played a role in managing an NFP program just before I retired from a career managing social service programs. Chris had led me to the Community Advisory Board of NYC NFP and when I got there, I realized they had no mechanism for raising funds from individual donors. I thought that was leaving money on the table and I could do something about it (even though I’d never had fundraising experience and certainly never really thought through what the steps would be. It is good that I didn’t because I would have realized that I had no idea what it would take to be successful). I just figured that I would figure it out and I guess I did.
CW: I am on the national Board of Directors for Nurse-Family Partnership. I was delighted to meet Susan who had worked as an administrator in Pennsylvania for the NFP program there for a number of years. We shared a passion for wanting to help the moms in the NYC program in very tangible ways to become self-sufficient. To that end, we needed to reach out to our friends to fundraise, which required a non-profit status. A partnership was born…
NFP Board and nurses at a pre-pandemic event
What inspires you most about the moms we serve?
SO: I cannot get over the enormity of the struggles so many moms face and their courage and grit in the face of adversity.
CW: I am inspired by NFP moms’ interest, motivation, and passion to make their lives better for themselves and their children.
How does the work of Friends help women’s empowerment?
SO: So often clients talk about finally “being seen,” “more confident,” “more motivated than ever.” I’m inspired by stories like Camekia’s. Camekia is an NFP client who returned to school despite the adversity she had faced.
CW: The NFP mothers have pride in themselves for being better parents and supporting their families.
COVID-19 has set women back, according to one report by the National Women’s Law Center, 100% of the jobs lost in December were held by women. How have you seen COVID set women back and how can we recover?
SO: I have seen an enormous difference in how our son participates in raising his children vs my husband (and see it similarly among many couples we know). Yet despite this, the woman is still the backstop, organizer and educator, so yes all women have had an undue burden in this period—both stress and loss of jobs. I don’t know how we recover if corporations and public policy do not change. The child tax credit is an important start and continued pressure from women might help in the workplace but it might take quite a while.
CW: The incredible stress of poverty and child care are overwhelming. Recognition of that burden is being discussed, somewhat, in the media and in various levels of government. We, in the United States as opposed to Europe, are very far behind in the kind of support that families need to thrive. Day Care, nurseries, and community schools are very important.
Moving forward together
Breaking the cycle of poverty starts with empowering moms to advance their degrees, jumpstart their careers, and become the best moms they can be. We’re grateful to Susan and Christine for leading the way to a better future and recognizing Nurse-Family Partnership’s impact on first-time moms in NYC.