The Little Timmy Project of Indianapolis helps fill gaps in maternal healthcare here in the Hoosier state. According to Katie Kirkhoff, president and co-founder of The Little Timmy Project, Indiana is ranked abysmally in terms of maternal and infant death: 47th in maternal death and 42nd in infant. “We are considered the south of the Midwest as far as our maternal/infant death rates,” Kirkhoff says. “Over a quarter of the state exists in a maternal care desert.”
But how can this be? “There are people in rural communities that have to drive over an hour to get to their OB-GYN or to a laboring hospital. This is why people aren’t going,” Kirkhoff says. Other times, different obstacles present themselves. “In cities, on the other hand, black and brown women are dying all over the country. In Indianapolis, it is 3 to 4 times that national rate. Studies have shown that healthcare systems, doctors and nurses have implicit biases. Black women are being neglected in hospitals or told to wait. We see a big difference in how black and brown women are treated. It is definitely alarming. But the more we talk about it, the more we can make a change.”
Helping to foster that difference, Kirkhoff founded The Little Timmy Project, after suffering a loss of her own: The traumatic loss of her son, Timmy, who passed away at 5 weeks old to SIDS. To cope through the grieving process, she started researching prenatal, newborn and pregnancy issues, leading her to build The Little Timmy Project , which offers collaborative efforts and advocacy for Hoosier communities. The organization’s goal is to promote positive pregnancy outcomes while addressing the maternal and infant health crisis in Indiana.
According to Kirkhoff, one of the bigger healthcare gaps is experienced by Indianapolis communities where non-English speakers, refugees and immigrants live. “We have several large Burmese populations around Indianapolis. And not having an ID or paperwork can be a barrier,” Kirkhoff says. “A lot of people who are undocumented don’t understand how to get a government ID. We receive a lot of those types of clients because we don’t require an ID, whereas a lot of organizations around Indy do require that. And people are scared to go.”
The organization’s first big initiative was the Little Mom Stop, a mobile unit that goes to areas of the state lacking resources. “One of the biggest issues is people just not knowing what resources they have available in their communities, and for those that have gaps, we attempt to provide them with more resources,” Kirkhoff says. The program is the next iteration from their Little Mom Shop, a free pantry full of parent and baby essentials. It was created through a community partnership with Cornerstone Lutheran Church in downtown Indianapolis.
“With COVID, we saw an uptick in single moms losing their jobs, so we spent three months doing diaper drive-thrus,” Kirkhoff says. “We helped over 300 families. Our Little Mom Shop is full of toys and clothes, basically anything you can think of. We have baby food and formula, and every mom that comes to the shop, we can give them these things. Our pantry is based on donations, so people can help us by donating their unwanted items. We have seen an uptick in Goodwill not taking items because they are overloaded. We know parents are always trying to get rid of baby stuff. We can help get things to parents who really need help.”
To find out more about The Little Timmy Project and to help, visit littletimmy.org.