Children’s Trust and the South Carolina Home Visiting Consortium awarded the first Home Visitor of the Year award at the 2019 Home Visiting Summit. Neil White, who tells the stories of Children’s Trust, covered the ceremony.
Sarah Griggs spends a lot of time on the road as she travels to see families in her role as a home visitor with McLeod Health Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP), and she admits to occasionally wondering if she’s making a real difference.
But the relationships formed with the families she serves, as well as the strong support of her employer, provides validation many days. Further affirmation came in early March at the 2019 Home Visiting Summit, when Griggs was named the winner of the first Home Visitor of the Year award at the USC Alumni Center before 250 of her peers.
Chosen by the South Carolina Home Visiting Consortium, Griggs was cited for her passion in helping pregnant women and young mothers with the resources and skills to raise children who are physically, socially, and emotionally healthy and ready to learn.
“Sarah does a phenomenal job reaching, connecting with, and retaining her families throughout all phases of the NFP model, helping them through weekly encouraging texts, connections to community resources, and celebrating milestones and achievements of both the parents and their children,” said Jane Witowski, a consortium charter member, in announcing Griggs’ accomplishments. “Sarah works hard to ensure the families she serves know they have someone who cares about them and their success – both as individuals and as a family.”
Griggs was selected from four finalists for the award. The others were Alicia Turner, Dorchester County First Steps; Lori Gardner, Carolina Health Centers; and Marta Stewart, MUSC Children’s Health.
“It’s hard to put into words,” Griggs said. “I look at all the home visitors in the room, and everybody has strong points on how they work with families. It’s very humbling. I was totally shocked.”
Cathy Ramage, the senior home visiting coordinator for Children’s Trust, saluted all four finalists for their dedication and service. Nominations were submitted by supervisors of home visitors that met certain criteria, and they were impartially reviewed by consortium members not affiliated with one home visiting model in particular.
“The Home Visiting Consortium planning committee really saw an opportunity through this event to recognize individuals for their excellence in the field,” Ramage said. “This work is so important, and often challenging, and there are so many professionals that go above and beyond to strengthen their communities. Their passion shows in their work, and we hope this is just the beginning of highlighting and thanking individuals for their service and dedication.”
Despite the long days, Griggs understands that she’s making a real impact for families in the rural areas of Chesterfield and Marlboro counties. She has found that many of these young parents have experienced their own share of childhood adversity and lack confidence when it comes to parenting.
“You’re going in and letting them know, ‘You might not believe that you’re strong enough to do this, but you are. Let’s find your strong points and assist them and make them stronger so that you can help your baby have the best start,’” Griggs said.
Griggs encourages her moms and dads in the program to finish high school or technical college in order to get a better job that can support a family. She connects them with medical services and support agencies. She sends encouraging texts. She buys supplies for crafts projects. She sends cards or small gifts on birthdays and anniversaries. She’ll visit with clients during the hours that best fit their schedules, even if that means starting early or finishing late.
“To me, these aren’t going way above and beyond, but some of them are just going the extra mile to show them that we care and we’re there for them,” Griggs said.
She appreciates the willingness of families to work with her, and she thanks McLeod Health for the positivity of her workplace.
“It makes you feel like your hard work is making a difference,” she said.
Kristen Miller, the McLeod NFP nursing director, cites Griggs’ family engagement skills, high number of healthy and breastfeeding babies, large active caseload, retention rate for families, and above-average number of monthly home visits as primary reasons why she was nominated for the award.
“Sarah is an outstanding maternal child health nurse who has a drive like no other,” Miller said. “She is caring, compassionate, and has a true passion to serve her NFP families. Sarah is always willing to do more with less. … Her nomination only scratches the surface of the good work Sarah does every day.”
Please visit the new website for home visitors at schomevisiting.org.