Pictured: Three Little Birds Spring 2022 intern, Leo Mercado, Rowan University ('22)
Three Little Birds hosted two Rowan University interns through the spring semester of 2022. Both Rachel Wimmer (not pictured) and Leonel Mercado, Jr. (pictured) are students at the University’s School of Human Services and joined our nest to study the gaps in social services as it relates to perinatal loss, explore some of the financial burdens to help find solutions, as well as provide general support to administrative tasks needed as we expand our footprint throughout the region.
The interns conducted an anonymous survey of the families in the Philadelphia and South Jersey region we have supported to ascertain the financial burdens they faced and are still experiencing, along with space for them to provide specific information on their experience and how we can help. We were astonished and disheartened to find:
More than half of respondents felt disappointed in the lack of resources provided by their hospital and disposition provider.
More than half were already financially strapped prior to their loss and the same percentage had also incurred additionally expenses such as insurance deductibles, copays, testing, funeral/cremation costs, etc.
More than 30% of respondents noted they exhausted all of their savings to cover these unexpected expenses and more than half of respondents feel that sadly, their current financial status leaves them unable to continue their family building journey.
Even more alarming was the discrepancy in expenses families incurred.
Funeral expenses ranged from $1,200 and upward of $10,000 (depending on caskets, services, etc). There was a large number or respondents who also have not yet purchased the headstone, simply because of the cost.
Cremation expenses ranged from $200 to $5,000 (including transportation, certificates and urn)!
Three Little Birds is seeking to bridge the gap between medical care/disposition providers and the families we serve to help offset these unexpected and monumental financial burdens. The interns were tasked in assisting us in developing programs to alleviate these problems.
Rachel worked on researching opportunities with utility providers to support families experiencing stillbirth or neonatal loss and are on short-term disability in the post-partum period. We prepared and submitted several grant applications with local water and gas/electrical utility companies to develop a specialized program to support and validate our families in loss. This includes a one-time bill credit and six-week deferment on future bills for up to 20 families in our nest. We are hoping to hear back soon and announce a formal program to offer new families in our nest. Additionally, she had the opportunity to assist at several events this spring that focused on supporting the family building community including infertility, pregnancy after loss and baby loss.
Leonel worked on researching opportunities to offset financial burdens for families through disposition providers. After researching and connecting with more than a dozen funeral homes in our service region, he delivered packages to be given to loss families with several support items including a complimentary gift based on cremation or burial which includes jewelry or a small urn or an angel gown through our Angel Gown Program. By the end of 2022, we are hoping to launch our Preferred Provider Program with local funeral homes/disposition providers to help continue to offset these financial burdens.
Collaboratively, they updated numerous resources on our page with other local and new organizations, outlets and community sponsors/partners that support the local pregnancy and infant loss community.
Additionally, they researched the role of social workers in supporting loss families (bedside, post-partum, in the emergency room, etc.) and have found that more than half of the time, families are not seen or supported by a social worker and those that are, have stated they lacked the resources and training to adequately support families and the considerations they must make based on personal, cultural, religious and ethnic diversity and socioeconomic status. This research will be the basis of future perinatal bereavement training workshops for supporting loss in the emergency room, ultrasound technicians/sonographers and social workers. This work also supports our Perinatal Bereavement Training Program for Medical Professionals and Advocates currently underway at Jefferson Health Systems in Washington Township, NJ.
Three Little Birds would like to extend a heartfelt thank you for the work and for managing our mission with maturity and sensitivity, which we feel is an important takeaway from this experience as they enter social services. Best wishes to you from the nest!