New Jersey is currently ranked 47 in the nation for maternal mortality, with about 60% of deaths being preventable. For the last 20 years, Children’s Futures has been trying to change that by helping mothers across the Trenton-Mercer area. For Spencer Lester, who serves as the organization’s CEO, CFO and Project Manager, it was touch and go for a few months in the beginning.

“To get the first grant from the foundation, I left the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in September 13 of 2001. I had until December 1, 2001 to create an organization that could receive a grant,” said Lester. “I had to have accounting policies and procedures, HR Payroll, all of the things that are connected to creating an organization and corporation. Everything was done between September and December 1st.”

Lester wanted to make a difference in young mothers’ lives and help those who needed help. He used his finance and healthcare expertise to manage the grants and create an organization focused on helping young mothers. Today, the organization continues to help with outreach opportunities.

This week, a meet-and-greet in support of Maternal Health Awareness Day commenced on January 23 to help spread awareness about maternal health during pregnancy, childbirth, and childcare. Organizers handed out flyers, pamphlets, and reading materials to mothers as volunteers helped spread the word about the organization.

Children’s Futures has a considerable team of doulas, healthcare workers, benefactors, volunteers, media affiliates and others dedicated to taking the massive task of helping over a thousand mothers a year in every aspect of childbirth from day one pregnancy tests to two-year-old toddler care.

Ashely Neblett, the lead doula, explained that she would handle cases through referrals. “We go through the referral process. We get the mom, then I match them up with a doula. And then we begin to follow them throughout their entire pregnancy. We hook them up with the community health worker for whatever resources they may need: housing, food pantries,” Neblett said.

Neblett sends mothers over to her doula Zarina Paz, CHW Community Health Worker. “I do try to make sure to follow up with them, make sure they’re doing okay with pregnancy. Also, once they have their baby, make sure they have diapers, clothing, any formula if they decide not to breastfeed…and just being there for them,” Paz said.

Children’s Futures has registered nurses on deck to help out with doctor appointments and infant care. Cynthia Hampton, one of the registered nurses, is a visitation nurse for Children’s Futures as part of the Nurse-Family Partnership.  “Our program runs over two years… and what we do is we teach about pregnancy care, infant care, and toddler care. We promote good parenting. We teach about the resources in the community,” said Hampton. “Babies don’t come with instructions. Young girls or young women that become pregnant don’t always know what certain things mean… It’s important for her to know what’s going on with her body… All of these contribute to a good outcome.”

Children’s Futures has provided services for over 1,558 families, supporting the birth of over 142 babies, and disbursing over 29,120 diapers.

Lester is proud of the organization that has come up in the last twenty years. “I just got an offer to go to this place, work and make literally double what I’m making now, to do 1/5 of what I’m doing… I don’t want that.. because it’s fulfilling to me. It’s like, really seeing and making that difference,” Lester said.

He continues to say that they are always here to help the community “Children’s Future is really here to impact the community. That’s our primary focus to make a real impact, not just to exist.”