Evidence-based nurse home visiting services – including the Nurse-Family Partnership and Parents As Teachers programs – are at the heart of our work to promote children's well-being. And why not? They are among the most well-researched and compelling anti-poverty programs in the United States. Each client receives between 30-50 visits from their nurse over the course of the program. Nurses educate and coach new mothers on a healthy pregnancy and delivery; the baby's good health and development; and the mother’s vision and goals for the future. Over time, a unique and trusting relationship evolves between mother and nurse.
What’s unique about our approach is that in addition to home visits, we also provide integrated services that enable families to live healthier lives. We have developed new approaches that go beyond the core home visiting curriculum to better meet the complex needs of families living in deep poverty.
Our solution holistically addresses the conditions of poverty that interfere with parent-child bonds and stunt child development.
Beginning in 2014, the following innovations have been embedded in our public health nursing team’s daily work:
- The interdisciplinary Nursing-Legal Partnership ensures that pregnant women and new mothers have the opportunity to raise their children in safe, healthy homes, with uninterrupted access to health insurance coverage and other benefits. Two legal aid attorneys – located on-site, 5 days a week – now collaborate with public health nurses to identify and address unmet legal needs that harm maternal-child health and well-being. Nurses and lawyers also work together to pursue policy issues impacting the health of families living in poverty.
- Our clients have significant unmet mental health needs but often fail to follow through with referrals. Our Mental Health Assessment and Counseling pilot initiative brings a certified therapist to meet with new mothers in the privacy of their homes, and build bridges to more intensive services in the community. Having earned their trust over time, home visiting nurses are able to link new mothers to mental health services and reiterate the importance of seeking professional counseling in the weeks and months surrounding childbirth.
- Our Breastfeeding Project has dramatically increased the availability of professional and peer lactation support services, resulting in improved breastfeeding initiation and duration rates. It also built our team’s long-term capacity to meet mothers' breastfeeding needs going forward by preparing 14 staff nurses to become IBCLC-certified lactation consultants. Nurses and lactation consultants also work with on-site Nursing-Legal Partnership lawyers to ensure that high schools, colleges and workplaces in our community support the needs of breastfeeding mothers.
When our team works together across professional boundaries, we can more effectively address the negative impacts of poverty on children and families.