One alumna’s journey inspired her
to make an impact on families
By Mindy GreenRecent graduate Laura Romero is making a lasting impression on some Austin families. During her graduate practicum in the School of Family and Consumer Sciences’ Family and Child Studies program, Romero developed a groundbreaking program that helps siblings of premature babies cope with familial stress during the baby’s long-term stay in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
“My research revealed that very few programs were in place for siblings of children with special healthcare needs, not only across the United States, but worldwide as well,” Romero says.
Romero developed Sibling Sundaes to fill that void.
In Sibling Sundaes, children learn about the equipment in the NICU, hear about other children who have experienced similar situations, create a stronger bond with their new sibling by decorating a nameplate for the baby’s isolette and visit with the new family member in the NICU.
“For a few hours a month, families can spend time altogether, bonding just as they would when a baby comes home from the hospital after birth,” Romero says.
Romero’s passion for sibling support was born from personal experience. When her daughter arrived prematurely and was later diagnosed with cerebral palsy, she was concerned how her two-year-old son would adjust to those life-changing events. “Every circumstance in life — especially the most difficult ones — change you for the better or change you for the worse,” says Romero.
Romero tested her program during her internship. The success of her initiative led to full-time employment. Romero now facilitates Sibling Sundaes at both St. David’s Medical Center and St. David’s North Austin Medical Center. She is also the Family Support Navigator and Sibling Support Specialist for Hand to Hold, an Austin-based non-profit that provides resources and support to families of preemies.
Romero finds the ability to create changes for the better immensely satisfying. “The greatest joy is watching siblings come back from visiting their brothers and sisters and seeing their big smiles as they talk about their experience,” she says.
Learn more about Romero’s program here.