Op/Ed: Volunteering to cuddle needy newborns

Drug-addicted babies need volunteers

By Susan Rzucidlo, Special To The Times

I confess, I typically read two newspapers a day as well as online papers and other news sites and listen to news radio. Occasionally, I share what I read on social media. Last week I shared a story on my Facebook page from The Philadelphia Inquirer about volunteer cuddlers, who hold and help newborns who are, in most cases, born to addicted mothers. It was a great story and one that you can read here (http://www.philly.com/philly/health/Loving-arms-cuddle-babies-born-addicted-to-opioids.html )

As soon as it appeared on my Facebook page people started calling, texting, sending private messages as well as posting to my page asking where they could volunteer in this way. I’m not sure how I became the person who others expect to have the answers, but I am always happy to help when and where I can.

So, not one of our hospitals in Chester County has a cuddler program. That surprised me. I will look into why that is, especially with the jaw-dropping level of opioid abuse and addiction that we have in Chester County, and I will get back to you on that.

Locally what I did find is that Lancaster Hospital for Women and Babies has a cuddler program and you can contact them at http://www.lancastergeneralhealth.org/LGH/About-Lancaster-General-Health/Volunteer/Volunteer-Oppotunities.aspx

And Christiana Care Health System has a cuddler program for adult volunteers in their NICU. You can read more about volunteering at https://christianacare.org/about/volunteer/adultvolunteeropportunities/

To specifically find out more about the cuddler program you can go to http://news.christianacare.org/2015/11/volunteer-cuddlers-ensure-nicu-babies-never-feel-alone/ or call 302-733-1284.

These programs will train volunteers to hold and comfort babies who are born addicted to narcotics, prescription drugs and opioids as well as babies who have other needs. This is not simple holding happy babies. These babies are irritable and uncomfortable. They are not easy to console, but they desperately need loving, caring arms to help them get through a really rough start to life. These babies can spend weeks and even months in the hospital being weaned off drugs. A loving human touch does wonders in medicine.

The other hospitals in the area that have cuddler programs are both in Philadelphia. Einstein Hospital has a cuddler program. You can read more about that her http://www.einstein.edu/about/community/volunteer/apply

Jefferson Hospital’s cuddler program is backlogged with volunteers until next winter.

Now maybe babies aren’t your thing, but you’d like to help with slightly older children. Did you know that AI DuPont has a Read Aloud program? This programs volunteers read to aloud to children as they wait to be seen for appointments, in their Outpatient Waiting Areas. They also have other opportunities to volunteer and help children and their families, for more information you can call 302- 651-6081 or e-mail volunteers@nemours.org

Of course, with all volunteer opportunities around hospitals and children, you will need to fulfill the requirements of the hospital. That includes criminal background checks, TB tests and more. Call or go to the organization’s website to get more details. I’ve always believed that everyone has something they can do to help others. Volunteering is a gift you can give the community, but it is a gift that always gives you far more than you’ve given.

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