Think Babies Michigan Parent Spotlight: Rachel Gerbig

After having her son, Rachel uses her lived experiences to relate to families with young children as a social worker for maternal infant health in the Upper Peninsula.

Ishpeming, MI – No one was prepared for COVID-19, but after graduating from school in 2019, Rachel, a mother of three-year-old son, Kaden, and 9-year-old son, Kellin, learned how to navigate two unknowns: her first pregnancy, and a worldwide pandemic. After having her son, Kaden, Rachel stayed at home longer than expected but was grateful for the extra time she had with her son, and the home visiting services she received during the height of the pandemic.

“Home visiting is really just being there for the family and going by what they need, connecting them with what suits their family and what they want to get out of the program. Sometimes it’s just moms and families who just need support and someone to talk to.” Gerbig explained. Rachel recalled her son being a “late walker” which was detected early with the home visiting services she was utilizing.

Home visiting has been proven to lower rates of newborn death and plays an instrumental role in educating pregnant women on prenatal care, supporting healthy pregnancy practices, tracking child development, and preventing unintended child injuries. Rachel not only has the lived experience of utilizing these services, but is now able to combine her educational background in social work and macro-level policy with her new role as a social worker for the Maternal Infant Health program of the Marquette County Health Department. “I think it’s really cool now that my son is older and doing some preschool that I can get involved in different ways through my career.”

Through lived experience with her son, and her work meeting with families, Gerbig recognizes the need for even more support for maternal-infant health services, especially in the Upper Peninsula where the landscape is more rural, and support can be scarcer. One of the issues Gerbig is most passionate about is infant mental health, which many families she does case management for have to travel hours downstate to receive care, taking weeks, sometimes months, out of their lives. “Thankfully we do have a few infant mental health specialists around, but another need is child psychology…some people up here go to Wisconsin as well, but then they can run into insurance issues….it would be great to get more of those professionals around these areas. Even if it’s just anywhere in the U.P. where someone doesn’t have to travel [as far].” – Rachel stated.

As a Think Babies Michigan parent leader, a member of several parent groups, including, Birchview parent group, a social worker, and finally, as a mom, Gerbig continues to advocate for better Paid Family Medical Leave policy in Michigan, more home-visiting services, and early intervention, the same way it helped her family during the pandemic.

“Parent Leadership is advocacy, because you know where you’re coming from as a parent, and you know the needs around you.”

More than 950 Michigan families, advocates, researchers, government officials, service providers and parents convened to create the Think Babies Michigan 2020-2025 Policy Agenda. Michigan is the only state in this national movement to intentionally prioritize having parents co-lead and co-design our policy agenda-setting process. Click below to learn more and join the initiative.