Healthy Families Douglas County Client Story

Couple credit case manager, support group for parenting skills

By Karrey Britt | Communications Coordinator

At ages 19 and 21, Amber Calfy and David Ward learned they would soon become parents. Like most parents, they were nervous and anxious; however, they faced more challenges than most.They were young, had low-paying jobs and Amber had grown up in an unstable environment.

As a child, Amber moved to multiple states to live with different caregivers. “My mom didn’t want us anymore, so she gave us up to an uncle when I was in the fourth grade,” Amber said. That uncle went through a divorce and become an alcoholic; therefore, at age 16, Amber became responsible for herself. She dropped out of high school and began working to pay for housing, food and clothes.

​Case Manager offers help

Today, Amber, 21, and David, 23, are married and they both want a different life for their 20-month-old daughter, Heidi. They credit the Healthy Families Douglas County program and their case manager Mandy Gwirtz for helping them become the parents they want to be through in-home visits, where she offers support and education.

“I go to Mandy for a lot of stuff. She has been a huge relief,” Amber said. Mandy has provided information about what to expect during pregnancy and how to talk to a doctor. She’s helped with questions about teething, sleeping and potty training. She’s also provided information about child development and behavior. “Mandy does these tests to see if Heidi is on track,” Amber said. “She’s ahead, so that’s good," Amber said, smiling.

When Heidi was 2 months old, Amber’s appendix burst and she ended up in the hospital. After the incident, she suffered depression because she could no longer breastfeed Heidi due to the antibiotics she was prescribed. She missed the bonding. David said it was hard to watch his wife suffer such sadness. Amber said she all she wanted to do was stay in bed. They said Mandy was a godsend and helped them pull through that difficult time with home visits and support.

Amber said she took Mandy’s advice and made an appointment to see a therapist. “It took me a little bit to accept the fact that I need help. I had been my own therapist my entire life,” she said. Amber said the therapist helped her focus on herself. “Other than being a sister, daughter, mom and wife, the therapist helped me find me. She also helped me come to terms with what my parents and uncle did to me during my childhood.”

Young Adult group offers support

Amber and David also found support through the Healthy Families Douglas County Young Adult group, which meets twice a month at the Health Department. They said they lost friends and felt isolated when Amber became pregnant. “We were excited to find a group we could connect with,” David said. “People were more understanding about what we were going through.” The couples talk about their children, ask questions, and share their struggles and triumphs.

Amber and David said they’re more stable now. Amber is close to earning her high school diploma and then she plans to attend a technical college. David applied for a management position at his full-time job and plans to pursue a college degree. More importantly, they want to be good parents and role models for Heidi. “We want her to be healthy and happy,” David said.


Amber and David Ward began participating in the Health Department's Healthy Families Douglas County program when Amber was pregnant with Heidi. Today, Heidi is 2 years old.