Nicole Chipman: The help a parent needs to rebuild and reunite.

  • Mastul Foundation
  • |
  • March 25, 2020

It’s not easy being a single mom. Add into that two boys with special health care needs and one can see why Nicole Chipman was struggling.

Recognizing the difficulty Chipman family was experiencing, The Westmoreland County Children’s Bureau stepped in and referred Chipman to The Children’s Institute’s Project STAR.

ProjectSTAR works with at-risk families, offering support and guidance so that they can rebuild and stay together.

When Project STAR Permanency Specialist Jen Ambrose met the family, she saw that Nicole’s eldest son, Dakota, had an ostomy bag that wasn’t changed often enough, leading to infections. His diet was inadequate and his failure to gain weight had made it impossible to reverse the ostomy procedure. He was also prone to behavioral outbursts.

Nicole’s younger son Aaron had health problems, as well. He couldn’t speak, but had never been diagnosed with anything that would explain this developmental delay. In addition, his feet turned in, making it difficult for him to walk.

Jen began by coordinating formal supports for every member of the family. Dakota received physical and mental health services, while Aaron underwent evaluations that ultimately led to a diagnosis of autism along with a treatment plan. Meanwhile, Jen worked with Nicole on parenting skills.

Gradually, the family became stronger. Dakota gained enough weight to reverse the ostomy procedure, and his behavior began to improve dramatically. Aaron made excellent progress — he began to speak, learn numbers and letters, and his gait normalized. Nicole became a far better mom.

“She’s a totally different kind of mother,” says Jen. “She’s attentive to the boys’ needs, she is caring and compassionate, and she has become an advocate for Dakota and Aaron.”

Nicole agrees, and is thankful for the services her family received through Project STAR. “It’s been nice to have a caseworker who actually cares. I’ve learned so much. Now I know how to be there for my kids.”

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