Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group

Peterson Space Observer

A mother away from home

(U.S. Air Force photo/Craig Denton)
Betina Hicks, 21st Medical Group nurse manager for the New Parent Support Program, demonstrates how to properly clear a newborn’s airway. Hicks provides three main services as the nurse manager to parents who are planning to have a child, or just had a child: education, resources and support.

By Senior Airman Jacob Morgan

21st Space Wing Public Affairs

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — More than 16 years ago, a 26-year-old staff sergeant was driving through Albuquerque, N.M., and had just dropped off her 14-month-old son at daycare. It was a normal weekday morning as she headed to work when she was broadsided by a driver running a red light, killing her instantly.

The boy came to Colorado Springs where Betina Hicks, the victim’s mother, helped raise him. During her interactions, she began to notice strange behavior with the toddler. During the day the child would become inconsolable. Hicks learned the hard way what it was like to care for a child who had just lost his mother.

“I started seeing things completely differently. It was important for me to care for families with children that age, because I saw how my grandson reacted,” said Hicks. “They had a routine that was taken from my grandson.”

At the time Hicks was a civil servant at Fort Carson but decided to pursue a new career in which she could help children whose parents spend extended periods of time away from home. She sought out a job as the nurse manager for the Air Force’s New Parent Support Program here.

Today, Hicks provides three main services to parents who are planning to have a child or just had a child: education, resources and support.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re a first time parent, you’re an adoptive parent or this is your 16th child,” said Hicks. “When you have a new addition to the family it brings new challenges. Things will change, roles will change; it could cause chaos. My role is to facilitate that process for both the parents and the child.”

In an educational role, Hicks works around parent’s busy schedules to provide classes such as basic care of the newborn, the healthy newborn, post-partum issues/depression, jaundice, lactation or any class the parents may need.

“This role is especially important before the child is born,” said Hicks. “These classes are offered downtown, but I will work around your schedule and do them for free.”

As a nurse manager, Hicks transitions from the role of educator to providing resources and support for the new parents once the child is born.

Resources includes connecting parents, or soon to be parents, with outside agencies who can help with unique challenges.

“I try to help to clarify things, provide a liaison service, and I can try to provide tools to empower parents,” said Hicks.

A similar challenge for military families is spending a lot of time away from their family. Many service members have felt the pain of being deployed while their baby was born. Providing support when a parent is gone is near and dear to Hicks’ heart.

“I am their family away from home. If parents are feeling overwhelmed, I can help take some of the pressure away,” said Hicks. “I can help with home visits, sending books to deployed members on how to reintegrate back with their children when they return. It will be challenging, but I can help.”

New or expectant parents can start by filling out a family needs form with the 21st Medical Group, after which they will be contacted by Hicks.

“Not near as many people are taking advantage of the program as I wish they would,” said Hicks. “I will make myself available at any time to provide assistance with resources, education or support for these families.”

Hicks, who plans to continue spending long hours helping the families at Peterson AFB, Cheyenne Mountain AFS and Schriever AFB, said each family’s story is different.

“My past is probably why I give my job my all, why I will work long hours at any hour of the day to provide assistance to these families,” said Hicks. “I wouldn’t ask anyone else to do that in this position, but I will do that for my people.”

For information about the New Parent Support Program call 556-8943.

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