Two of UF Health’s obstetrics and gynecology staff were recently recognized at the Healthy Families Florida Annual Leadership Meeting on Sept. 14. This is a highly competitive nomination process that includes staff from 37 sites across Florida.
Amber Riess was recognized for General Participant Engagement and Lora Miller was recognized for Fatherhood Engagement. Healthy Families ACUB (Alachua, Columbia, Union, Bradford) staff won two of the five award categories.
The awards are given to employees who work with the Healthy Families Florida program, which sends non-medical workers into individuals’ homes at no charge to support expectant parents and parents of newborns experiencing stressful life situations.
Amber has demonstrated “Excellence in Engagement” and retaining participants by offering them a flexible schedule, often seeing them outside of regular business hours. She has a home visit completion rate of 100% and a participant retention rate of 100%. Amber follows up with her participants and shows she really cares about them.
She consistently keeps her families aware of resources available to them in the community. In addition, she texts them to follow up on how they are doing or to acknowledge special occasions. Her text messages to her participants are thoughtful and reinforce how much she cares. Amber has gone above and beyond by taking trainings to become a certified car seat technician, a breastfeeding counselor and a doula.
“They say, ‘When you love what you do, you never have to work a day in your life.’ However, I have found that to be false,” Amber said. “When you love what you do, you will work harder and advocate louder in order to see the success of our communities because you know they're worth it. This program is changing the world, one family at a time."
Lora has demonstrated “Excellence in Father Engagement” by making the fathers feel welcome and offering them a flexible schedule, as well as seeing them outside regular business hours and on weekends. Lora offers Saturday visits to working families so that fathers are available to participate. For Lora, 60% of her caseload involves father involvement. She may start out with a mother enrolled in services and the only one participating, but it isn’t long before she has the father involved.
While Lora strives to have both parents in her visits, she helps families in which the father is comfortable and works with her when the mother is unavailable. Lora reports that the fathers appear to appreciate the visits, and this is reflected in how often they participate. Lora is very hands-on with her participants, bringing them activities that the whole family can do together to promote parent-child bonding.
About Healthy Families: Because Babies Don’t Come with Instructions!
Healthy Families Florida is a free, voluntary program that provides families with useful information on parenting and child development. Services include home visitation, parent education and support, counseling services, parent groups and more.
Families may be eligible for services if they:
- Are expecting a baby or have a baby less than 3 months old
- Are currently experiencing stressful life situations that indicate they could benefit from home visitation