Nurse Karen Mitteness dropped to her knees to set out a flat scale to weigh two children one recent morning in Morris.
Siblings Connor, almost 3, and his baby sister Olivia and their mom Shanti Perry have been part of Mitteness’s regular schedule for two years. This recent visit would be the final weigh-in for Connor and Olivia Kleindl as Mitteness has followed Connor’s birth through his second year as part of the Supporting Hands Nurse-Family Partnership when she visits the home. The partnership is a community health program that works collaboratively with other providers and agencies to support first-time mothers and their families, its website said.
Perry said she learned of the program about six years ago when a friend had enrolled in it. She decided to enroll when she was pregnant with Connor.
“I was a first-time mom,” Perry said. Although confident in her maternal instincts, Perry said as a first- time mom she knew she’d have questions and things to learn. “(Mitteness) taught me,” Perry said.
Mitteness may be teaching by providing information on topics such as breastfeeding but the nurse said the regular visits were also about listening to the parent.
“What I like about the program is the parents lead what we do,” Mitteness said. “It’s a nurse and family partnership. We choose topics together. A parent may want to learn more about teething or brain development.”
Perry and Mitteness have discussed breastfeeding and family planning and other topics. During this latest visit, they talked about Olivia’s acid reflux and treatment by a chiropractor.
“Our role is (also) to find resources,” Mitteness said. She may provide information about the local food shelf or about available car seat programs, for example.
Mitteness also focuses attention on the child.
Mitteness and Perry said Connor is a bright kid. Mitteness introduced various games and activities that Connor would enjoy and would help with his development.
“They are like two peas in a pod,” Perry said of the nurse and her child. “They read books together...we do painting, sometimes we color….”
During this recent visit, Mitteness weighed Connor who helped hold Olivia on the flat scale.
“Man did she grow,” Mitteness said of Olivia. It had been a month since Mitteness’s last visit.
Mitteness brought a gift for Connor because it was this was her last visit. She sat on the floor while Connor unwrapped a stack puzzle of interconnecting plastic animals. They both sat on the floor to stack and connect the animals and made noises for various animals.
The visits were frequent when Connor was born. Then, as he got older, the visits were reduced to once a month, Mitteness said. The regression in visits is intentional as it helps the parent and the child adjust to when the nurse no longer visits, Mitteness said.
“It’s difficult,” Mitteness said of when the visits stop.
“It’s going to be hard,” Perry said of when the visits stop.
But Mitteness also has had the benefit of watching a child grow and develop and seeing the same in a parent. “This family will do just great,” she said.
For more information on the Supporting Hands Nurse-Family Partnership, call or text at (320) 287-2585.