by Emily Cowan, Family Support Supervisor (Safe Families NYC Chapter)
In February of 2022, we received a self-referral from a 23-year-old, single, and unexpectedly pregnant mom. Mom, “Joslyn” was 20 weeks pregnant with no family in the city and few real friends when she reached out to us through a referral. Mom was unemployed with a high school diploma. She wanted to find financial security for this new life she would be caring for and supportive friendship to encourage her as she embarked on this new journey. We matched Joslyn with a Family Friend named Lauren and connected them through a linking meeting over Zoom.
While parents and volunteers have a Family Coach who checks in with them regularly, we, as staff, like to check in with parents and Family Friends s after their first connection to see how things are going and troubleshoot if need be. When we checked in with Joslyn, she shared that honestly, she was reluctant at the linking meeting because she couldn’t see what she would have in common with her volunteer. They were from different backgrounds, different ages, different ethnicities, and different life experiences. She was unsure how much of a connection she would have with Lauren. However, she was willing to try. They met in person at Lauren’s apartment shortly after their linking meeting and Joslyn, a freelance artist, was pleasantly surprised to find that Lauren knew so much about art and photography. She quickly began to see why they had been matched.
Although they are both very different, they were both open to listening and learning from each other’s perspectives. They talked on the phone regularly and took turns meeting at each other’s apartments every other week. Lauren has been a huge source of support for Joslyn as she prepared to become a mom for this time on her own. Lauren supported Joslyn as she went to doctor’s appointments, filled out housing applications, and prepared to take her real estate licensing exam. At one point in the pregnancy, Lauren asked Joslyn if she could do a maternity photo shoot for her. Joslyn was thrilled at this idea and Lauren was able to capture photos of Joslyn doing what she loves painting. Joslyn submitted these photos to an art magazine where she has written a few pieces. She is hoping they will be featured in an upcoming magazine.
Nearing the end of their assignment, Family Friend Lauren reported, “Joslyn and I continue to be in communication so frequently, it’s nearly impossible to document. We text multiple times a week. She calls with specific questions (like obstacles she encountered when obtaining the baby’s passport), and we meet in person – she came to dinner last week with the baby. We continue to discuss work goals (she took the real estate test a second time and passed!) and she’s had 3 interviews with real estate companies. I’ve offered to babysit, even just to hold the baby while she takes a shower, etc. We almost always make plans for our next contact, next week I’m going to pick up some of their laundry with my car and do it for her, and she’s looking forward to that”.
At the end of her 1-year match with Lauren, Mom had met all of her goals, including passing her real estate license exam and getting a job. Every one of her self-evaluation scores improved, and she and Lauren had created a relationship that Joslyn describes as a natural and lifelong friendship! Perhaps the most encouraging thing to Lauren was that during their time together Joslyn always took a moment to check in with her and find out what she’s going through and if she can support her in any way. The relationship became mutual.
Joslyn’s formal Safe Families assignment has been closed for almost a year now, but the impact of her family friendship is still tangible. She and Lauren are still good friends who have maintained their “family” dinners. Joslyn has transitioned to a new and more stable job and Lauren is one of the emergency contacts Joslyn has listed for her daughter. Lauren and Joslyn are both thankful for the deep impact that this friendship has had on their lives. At Safe Families, the goal is that relationships flourish into lasting connections and become extended family-like relationships. We are so grateful for both volunteers and parents willing to take the time to build friendships outside their comfort zones in order to learn from each other and grow together!