First Connections Needs You!

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Meet Mia. Mia is from Haiti, she’s a registered nurse, a wife, and a mother of four. In 2018, Mia moved to Rhode Island with her family in search of a bright future for her children.

In 2020, right as COVID-19 began to change the landscape of our daily lives, Mia found out she was expecting her fifth child. In the late part of the year, she delivered a baby who needed surgery soon after birth. Her baby also was identified as having Down Syndrome. This was Mia’s first time having a child with a disability and she was extremely concerned about the health of her baby. Her baby needed more care and attention than doctors were able to provide in Rhode Island, and would soon be transferred to Boston Children’s Hospital. This, and the day-to-day stressors of the pandemic, were making for an extremely turbulent and confusing time for Mia and her family.

Anna was assigned to Mia’s case through our First Connections program. At first, Mia had hesitations about being involved. What could Anna, an assigned worker, even offer to her and her sick baby? Why would she go through with this at all if she wasn’t sure her baby would make it through surgery?

Anna shared with Mia that she had been in the same shoes 14 years prior when her baby was born with Down Syndrome and needed surgery soon after birth. Anna shared her fears for her child, her child’s health, and her own mental health. Anna showed photos of her own child, who was now a healthy and happy teenager. Her vulnerability eased Mia’s mind, and Mia was able to trust in the system that her baby would be okay.

As Mia’s baby was transferred to Boston Children’s, Anna reached out to her personal connections in the hospital to ensure that Mia and her baby had everything they needed before, during, and after surgery. The baby’s surgery was a success! As Mia brought her child back to Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Providence, Boston Children’s sent home Christmas gifts for all of Mia’s children. And Anna was there through it all.

Anna continued to work with Mia and her family to ensure that her fifth child hit developmental milestones. Anna helped transfer Mia’s nursing credentials from Haiti to Rhode Island. Anna helped Mia and her husband apply for first-time homebuyer programs. More than anything, Anna became a shoulder to lean on, a friend, and a valuable resource to Mia and her family.

Anna, and the many other First Connections staff at Children’s Friend and beyond, serve as critical links for moms and their families across Rhode Island. They provide holistic support so that families are on track to success.

First Connections also has an extreme amount of need as a program. Contracted through the Department of Health, 5 agencies in Rhode Island provide this service. Providers are paid through reimbursement rates. Reimbursement rates have not been increased in 20 years. Decades of disinvestment make it near impossible for providers to recruit and retain social workers and nurses like Anna and her team. Contact your legislator today to let them know First Connections matters, and is in need of support in the State of Rhode Island’s budget. Use #RIKidsCantWait to share your perspective on social media. Regular rate review is not enough. We need higher rates now. Children and families need these services. They deserve them.

Gabriella Florio – Special Projects Coordinator, Advocacy 2022 Lead