Madonna Place helps nurture confident parents

By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Norwich - posted Tue., Mar. 5, 2013
Nurturing Connections volunteer Roseann Kadyszewski chats with a new mom on the phone to offer reassurance and support. Photo by Janice Steinhagen.
Nurturing Connections volunteer Roseann Kadyszewski chats with a new mom on the phone to offer reassurance and support. Photo by Janice Steinhagen.

Roseann Kadyszewski sees herself as a “neutral nurturing connection,” but in simple terms, she’s a friendly, reassuring voice on the phone for anxious first-time moms. Whether it’s trouble with breast-feeding, questions about colic, or methods for soothing a fussy baby, Kadyszewski serves as a link in Madonna Place’s chain of support for parents.

Madonna Place, at 240 Main St., in Norwich, last year marked 25 years of strengthening families through support for parents of both genders. Its services include parenting education, both on-site and in the home; a drop-in center and playroom for parents to find respite; and emergency assistance with material needs like food and clothing.

A longtime educator and mother of three grown children, Kadyszewski found that when she left her permanent substitute teaching position, even pampering her two small grandchildren was “not fulfilling me totally.” She decided to contact Madonna Place after reading about its programs in the newspaper, and signed up to be part of its Nurturing Connections program.

“It’s a great intervention program and a positive beginning for new moms,” she said. She makes weekly phone calls to about eight new mothers, offering advice, reminders and referrals for the myriad issues that can be confusing to women who’ve never dealt with a newborn before.

Some of these mothers may be isolated from the usual support systems, said Kadyszewski. They may be single moms, in military families, high school students, homeless women or even moms in their early 40s. But the program is offered to all first-time mothers during their hospital stay.

“Motherhood is a stressful, difficult time for some,” she said. “It’s amazing how many of them are extremely responsive and very thankful” for the phone calls. She answers what questions she can, but also has a list of other resources – lactation specialists, pediatricians, and social welfare agencies – at the ready to pass on to her clients if they are needed. While she initiates the phone calls herself, clients with pressing questions can contact her through Madonna Place for a call-back.

Madonna Place also offers education and support for dads through its Fatherhood Initiative, as well as a Family-School Connection for families whose school-age children are often absent, tardy or disconnected from school.

Carol Snow, of Norwich, said that the services of Madonna Place have been an invaluable help to her in raising her daughter. She moved to Norwich 13 years ago, when her daughter was 3 years old, and came to the agency looking for clothing. “It’s one of the best places around for single parents, both moms and dads,” she said. “They were a big, big help at Christmas time to my daughter and myself.”

But it was more than material assistance that Madonna Place provided for Snow and her daughter. “They helped me to take care of her and to help her know that she’s number one,” she said. In addition, they helped Snow build self-confidence and learn to take time out for herself. “They’re encouraging women to get involved in different things and better themselves. The staff is good for that all the time,” she said.

As a result, both are thriving – Snow’s daughter in high school at Norwich Free Academy and Snow herself in her role as a stay-at-home mom and aspiring artist. She paints in several media and makes jewelry and dolls, and frequently comes to share her expertise with other moms at Madonna Place’s child and adult craft workshops. During her weekly visits to the agency, she often finds herself sharing parenting insights with younger moms at the drop-in center.

“It’s a comfortable place. We sit in the kitchen and have coffee,” she said. Like Kadyszewski, she helps lead parents to the other community resources they need to be successful and confident in their roles.

To volunteer with Madonna Place, call Wendy Yagarich at 860-886-6600, ext. 123; for Nurturing Connections, call Emily Missino at ext. 119.

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