There are few times in a woman's life more challenging than the first months of motherhood. But starting in January, there will be one fewer resource to help women during this time.
First Steps, a service offered under the Gainesville-Hall County Community Service Center's Building Better Babies program, will be closing its doors Dec. 31, a result of countywide budget cuts earlier this year.
For years, the program has been helping new mothers through the first three months of their child's life by providing information on available resources and educational materials.
"I guess the information is out there if you look for it," said Addrienne Session, a volunteer with First Steps. "We had it all in one place, not all of it but a lot of it. And if we didn't have it we'd find it."
The program covered everything from post-partum depression to creating a healthy environment for the child to grow in. Volunteers would speak with the mother first in the hospital and then regularly follow up with them at home.
The program was part of the Building Better Babies program which was funded through a 2010 state grant but was cancelled in September. Northeast Georgia Medical Center provided office space, access to computers and telephones, volunteers and benefits to the program.
Sara Dyer, director of women and children's services at the medical center, said the difficult decision to end the program was carefully thought out.
She said they've worked for several years trying to sustain the program but the economy made keeping the program too difficult.
"There is still a lot of opportunity and resources available, so nobody is going to be without any sort of help that they might need," Dyer said.
Dyer added that all of the mothers and babies are carefully screened for any problems upon admission to the hospital and are given a resource guide when they leave.
"I think they will have access to the same resources," Dyer said.
Volunteer Sandy Eichler has worked with First Steps for a year and a half. She said she's concerned some of the new mothers won't seek help when they need it and fall through the cracks.
"It's just an awesome program. I am really distraught that they're doing away with it," Eichler said.
Session described the program as that something extra to help new mothers. She said she wonders if it will ever start back up.
"This is a program that will function better if it is community based," Dyer said.
Angela Ricks, First Steps coordinator, said she has tried going to other local nonprofits to see if they would be able to take the program under their umbrella but has had little luck. She said even though the program is fairly inexpensive to run, it seems everyone is strapped financially.
"If there is something that we have not done, I wish someone would tell me so we could do it," Ricks said.