Providing a Bright Start

“You’re having a baby!”
The thought of having a child is often exciting and joyful, but it can also be very intimidating. When Samantha learned she was expecting, like many new mothers, she was uncertain and had many questions. From diapers to daycare, she needed support to become the best mother she could be. About 4 months before she gave birth, Samantha turned to Bright Start, a preventative and intensive home visiting program for families with limited resources, funded in part by Sioux Empire United Way.
“My mom wasn’t here to give support and let me know how [becoming a mother] would be,” says Samantha. “I wanted to learn what I could do to have a healthy pregnancy.”
Bright Start offers in-home visits from trained registered nurses to support first time mothers or first time parenting moms of any age in the Sioux Empire, usually low income, and often with high risk factors such as homelessness, domestic abuse, mental health issues, or no support system. 
According to a study conducted by child development expert, Dr. David Olds, such in-home nurse visits can have long term effects. The study found that mothers stayed in the work force longer, and their use of welfare, food stamps and Medicaid declined. Children of the most vulnerable mothers had higher grade-point averages and were less likely to be arrested than their counterparts.
“Our volunteers spend over 1,500 hours annually reviewing programs to ensure the dollars donated to United Way are going directly to programs that can demonstrate the need and impact of the services being provided,” said Christina Riss, Community Impact Director at United Way. “Since becoming the initiative in 2001, our volunteers have strongly supported Bright Start because it is such an effective way of providing much needed support to new moms with limited resources within our community.”
Twice a month, Bright Start nurses go to expectant and new mothers’ homes in their familiar surroundings. Leading up to birth, much of each visit revolves around physical and emotional changes the client might be going through. From birth until the child turns 3 years old, they discuss parenting topics and mentor clients so they have healthy children and healthy relationships with them.
“Building a relationship with both the client and the child and experiencing the different stages in their lives is fulfilling,” says Julie, Samantha’s Bright Start nurse. “One huge achievement is earning a client’s trust. Once we get to that point, we can understand how to best help, guide and empower our clients toward their short-term and lifelong goals and eventually self-sufficiency.”
With Samantha specifically, Julie has seen an enormous change in both her maturity and confidence as a result of Bright Start.
“Samantha is a calm, strong and responsible mother,” says Julie. “I have watched her grow in self-confidence and independence. She focuses on [her son] Brandon and his needs, achieving her goal of being a caring and loving mom.”
Samantha and Brandon graduated from the program on March 3, 2016 when Brandon turned 3 years old. She gives credit to Bright Start for helping her when she needed it the most.
“Brandon was a healthy baby and is a healthy child because of the information we discussed,” says Samantha. “His development has stayed on track, and he talks more now because of the activities discussed. Going through Bright Start will help me with my future children, too.”
To find out more about Bright Start and other Sioux Empire United Way funded agencies, visit or call 605-336-2095.