Heinz Endowment helping empower Pittsburgh’s PostPartum support system

New Moms Group At Toto
Photo credit: parentsintoto.org/empowering-moms/

With the rise of postpartum emotional crisis and social isolation, women will benefit from the Heinz Endowments financial support of the Empowering Moms Program— with increased access to free support groups, workshops and parenting support. Heinz Endowments is invested in growing early childhood supports for families.

The Empowering Moms Program at the Parents in Toto Community Resource Center provides in-person and virtual support for women transitioning into motherhood to bridge the gaps in maternal mental health and helps women explore their needs as a mom, build community support, and gain confidence during typical and challenging life-experiences. Started in 2020, the Empowering Moms Program has supported over 650 women in the greater Pittsburgh area and beyond.

Megan Shane, the program creator and manager, has worked in the greater Pittsburgh community with parents for nearly 20 years. She reflected: “We can go into parenting more prepared for birth than raising children. Birth lasts, on average, one day, but parenting is everyday for years to come. After just a few weeks, many women wish there was such a thing as a Mom-manual for their new little one. Motherhood, however, is subjective, ever-changing and something that we learn on the job. It’s not one size fits all. Having a reliable, non judgemental and community-based support system, fostered by Empowering Moms, helps us to form the manual for ourselves as we grow as parents.”

Postpartum depression and anxiety affects 1 in 8 women with lack of social support being a primary risk factor. In the post-pandemic world, moms are more isolated than ever. Research shows that early education and intervention is most effective in helping maternal mental health. And, positive maternal mental health is an indicator of a healthier early childhood experience. Comprehensive support for new moms, that continually assesses needs and symptoms of postpartum depression or anxiety beyond brief questionnaires at the doctor’s office and initiates exploration of crisis indicators are necessary.

Empowering Moms seeks to regularly support new moms, connecting them to peer support, mentorship and community resources so that they have a supportive village to lean on during their motherhood journey. As one mom reported: “at New Moms Group, I gained confidence and calm as a new mom. It lowered my anxiety levels, and it helped to talk with others and see similar and different experiences and talk about things that were weighing on my mind.” Our workshops address parenting skills throughout motherhood and child developmental stages, with practical and applicable ideas for raising children in today’s world including self-care for moms, behavioral approaches for supporting toddlers, raising anti-racist children, applying positive parenting techniques and more. One toddler behavior workshop attendee said, “These workshops give me the confidence that YES! I CAN do this!”

Shane looks forward to all that Empowering Moms can do with the financial support from Heinz Endowments. “We know that women need community and care during this challenging transitional period in their lives- whether it’s their first, second or third child. Motherhood is always changing and having a support system that we can turn to and ask: “Is this normal?” or “What has helped you?” provides a sense of not being alone. And when we feel less alone, we are empowered to grow and become the parent our children need.”

Women can sign up to get information on Empowering Moms programs through the website and can also view upcoming groups, programs and workshops. There are no clinical or financial obligations to our groups.  Community members are welcome to drop into our resource center in Zelienople during regular business hours or reach out to Shane for support.


By Megan Shane, M.A.