People sometimes assume Nora Deglow’s job as a labor and delivery nurse is all happy patients and cute newborns.
While that’s often the case, Deglow said there’s another side to her work people don’t often see.
“Most of the time it’s a very happy experience. It’s one of the only times people usually want to be at the hospital, but it’s not always very happy,” she said. “There’s a lot of mental health issues. There’s a lot of substance abuse in this area. We’ve had sex trafficking victims.”
Those situations can mean the Department of Human Services gets involved and children end up placed in foster care.
For Deglow and her coworkers at Salem Hospital, it’s hard in part because they don’t often see what happens next.
“We don’t always know. Did that baby find a home? Did the mom finish the rehab that she said she was going to in order to get the baby back? Did grandma end up taking the baby?” she said.
For the past two years, Deglow has helped get a new Salem nonprofit up and running that allows her to see the other side of those stories.
She’s a board member in charge of fundraising and events for Salem Angels, a new local chapter of a national nonprofit that supports local foster families by pairing them with volunteers who help take kids to appointments, deliver care packages and otherwise lessen the sometimes overwhelming burden on both foster parents and kids.
“A lot of families, they want to foster and their intent is to continue fostering but they bring a family or a child into their home and then it’s so much pressure on them,” Deglow said.
In addition to the normal responsibilities of raising a child, foster children often have extra obligations and appointments, like supervised visits with parents, meetings with social workers and counseling.
It’s common for kids in the foster care system to move around a lot, in part because of a shortage of caretakers.
Salem Angels wants to reduce that burden by identifying a group of six to eight volunteers, like a group of friends, church group or neighborhood, who can help provide whatever support they need. That could mean helping clear debris from yards after an ice storm, or watching kids for an evening so parents can have a date night out.
“Some people have a really strong circle and other people don’t,” Deglow said. The program, called “Love Box,” aims to provide families with an ongoing relationship, rather than the one-time help often offered through events like toy drives.
After an initial startup period fundraising, the nonprofit began serving families last year.
Currently, 32 foster families with a total of 60 children are being served by the program, with five more on a waitlist pending more volunteers.
The nonprofit also offers a one-on-one mentoring program for teens and young adults in foster care, up to age 20.
Deglow said now, they’re focused on getting the word out about their programs and recruiting volunteers.
“We’re getting more and more groups to come forward,” she said.
Deglow was among fifteen recipients of the annual MAPS Community Award from the Salem-based credit union’s foundation in August. Her friend, Liz Henderson, nominated her, noting that Deglow also helped deliver her daughter.
“She has a passion for helping children and families and a natural knack for planning events,” Henderson wrote.
Salem Angels’ executive director, Brook Goldsby, praised Deglow’s work in the award announcement.
“She lives out her passions whether in her daily work or with our organization that she volunteers all her time and talent to — Salem Angels is so blessed to have her on our team,” Goldsby said in the announcement.
Deglow’s involvement in Salem Angels came through her other charitable work. At Salem Hospital, she has led the annual fundraiser auction among labor and delivery workers for March of Dimes, a national nonprofit focused on maternal and child health.
Under her watch, it has grown from a small fundraiser to an annual gift of $15,000 to $20,000.
A former coworker who knew of her interest reached out in the fall of 2020 as Salem Angels was starting and suggested Deglow meet with Goldsby to learn more.
She’s taken on the work with energy, organizing an annual golf-a-thon to pay for operating expenses, with about $50,000 raised at the latest event in August.
Deglow said her work with Salem Angels lets her see happy endings she doesn’t always get as a nurse.
“To see when the children are able to go back to their home, or when they’re moving on and maybe they’re being adopted by their foster families, it just kind of allows me the chance to see the other end of the spectrum,” she said.
Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.
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Rachel Alexander is Salem Reporter’s managing editor. She joined Salem Reporter when it was founded in 2018 and covers city news, education, nonprofits and a little bit of everything else. She’s been a journalist in Oregon and Washington for a decade. Outside of work, she’s a skater and board member with Salem’s Cherry City Roller Derby and can often be found with her nose buried in a book.