By Karen Stokes
Mayor Tom Barrett and Ascension Wisconsin welcomed local faith leaders for an informative discussion on infant mortality at the 11th Annual Strong Baby Sabbath event. The virtual event celebrated the 36 churches participating as Ascension Wisconsin Blanket of Love Sanctuaries in advance of the Strong Baby Sabbath on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021.
“Thank you to Ascension Wisconsin for hosting this virtual event and for making infant health a major focus of their ministry,” Barrett said. “Strong Baby Sabbath has us come together as a community to address this important issue.”
This year’s theme will focus on Ascension Wisconsin launching its new initiative, Blanket of Love Dads or BOLD.
“There’s nothing more exciting than knowing you are to become a father, at the same time there’s nothing more terrifying than knowing you are to become a father,” said Christopher Boston, pastor of Lamb of God Missionary Baptist Church.
Boston said that the journey to becoming a father starts before the child arrives.
“The work of an engaged dad starts in the womb,” Boston said.
According to Psychology Today, fathers play an important role in a child’s development and can affect a child’s social competence, performance in school and emotion regulation.
Being aware of the barriers that some fathers face to be involved with their children, Ascension Wisconsin is stepping in with a new program called BOLD.
“It’s important to ensure the presence of fathers are valued,” said Marques Hogans, project manager, Build Sherman Park.
BOLD will offer a series of educational and birth support coaching, and will provide tools to help them become better fathers with healthy thriving children in a welcoming father-focus space.
In Milwaukee County in 2018, 127 infants died before reaching their first birthday with an infant mortality rate of 9.7 per 1,000 live births. Between 2008 and 2018, the infant mortality rate in Milwaukee County declined 1%.
Participation in church or community programs can reduce Milwaukee’s most preventable cause of infant deaths: premature births and unsafe sleeping environments.
“I’m so happy, in 2004 I had no idea from there we would be here,” said Julia Means, community health parish nurse. “We started with one church at Ebenezer Church of God in Christ, then we added St Matthews.”
“Fathers that show up will make strong communities and a better society,” Boston said.
“We can help change our community if we get more men involved, we know that prayer and God is the answer to any problem,” Means said.
To get involved with BOLD, call Brenda Hoskins, MSW at 414-465-3637.