Having a baby can be a frightening and isolating experience, especially for first-time mothers living in poverty. Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) is a national program with deep roots in Pennsylvania. It is dedicated to supporting these women to ensure that their pregnancies go well and their children develop normally.

The Delaware County NFP program receives grants from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Over the last eight years, it has served to close to 1,000 women, families and children in Delaware County.

The median age of NFP mothers in Delaware County is 19. About 92 percent are unmarried and about 60 percent have completed high school or a GED.

How the program works

Registered nurses begin making regular home visits to women early in their pregnancies.

During the typically one-hour visits, the bachelor’s trained nurses pay close attention to the physical health of the mother. They encourage mothers to eat nutritional foods, and to discontinue habits that might harm the pregnancy, including the use of tobacco, alcohol or controlled substances. After the child is born, nurses counsel the mothers on ways to improve the child’s health and development. The nurses also help mothers set goals for economic self-sufficiency by encouraging them to develop a vision for their future, continue their education or find work.

Research shows that the transformational relationship that develops over the two years between the nurse and the mother helps boost the mother’s confidence, improves birth outcomes and helps break the cycle of poverty. NFP focuses on first-time mothers because studies suggests the best chance for promoting positive health and child development occurs in the first pregnancy.

The results

In Pennsylvania, NFP has a presence in 44 of the state’s 67 counties, providing assistance to more than 3,400 families, which is more than in any other state. Nationally, the program is helping families in 42 states.

The program is widely adopted because it works. In at least one of NFP’s randomized research trials, the following results have been observed:

  • 48 percent reduction in child abuse and neglect;
  • 56 percent reduction in emergency room visits for accidents and poisonings;
  • 67 percent reduction in behavioral and intellectual problems by age 6.

NFP also saves money. A study by the RAND Corporation found that $5.70 is returned to a community for every dollar it invests in the program.

NFP has extended its reach by collaborating with a wide range of advisory programs in Delaware County, including Healthy Chester Coalition, Communities That Care Coalition, Neighbor to Neighbor Coming Together Communities Coalition, Healthcare and Domestic Violence Task Force and others.

The program is a success story in the county, and as it continues to grow, proponents say it will play a critical role in preventing infant deaths and preterm births, as well as reducing domestic violence and youth crime typically associated with poverty.

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