New Bern, NC – The Nurse Family Partnership is a non-profit, national program that began as a series of randomized trials and tests by Dr. David Olds. The research, which is ongoing, studies the effects of home visitations on first time, low-income mothers. Public Health Department nurse manager and supervisor of the nurse-family partnership Nancy Stone, says nurses were the most accepted models for teaching first time mothers.
"He used various professionals, and he found that nurses gave the better results, and basically, he thought it was because nurses are a trusted profession."
This year the Nurse Family Partnership serves in forty states. Pitt County has served 177 clients in their first three years. In that time they've made 1500 home visits and welcomed about 100 babies. The "home-nurse" is a professional partner and companion in the last few months before birth and in the first two years the child is born. Throughout the program, a mother is taught prenatal care, breastfeeding, exercise, and how to communicate properly with a baby, among other things.
Ninety two percent of the mothers in the program are single at enrollment and the majority of them are 18 to 24 years old. Although every mother has different challenges, Nurse-home visitor Elisa Brown, says at the beginning the strategy is consistent.
"We know what we're going to do when we go in and meet a new mother, we introduce ourselves, and talk to them about the program a little more in depth, and try to get a feel if a mother is little more engaged and interested in enrolling."
Although certain situations call for alternative actions, the partnerships underlying principles are what remain intact during their time with the new family. Brown says one guiding principle is teaching self-sufficiency.
"It's not so much us directing them, there's times that we do direct the mothers but we usually follow the mother and families leads so when we do have those times of crisis, we have our training, and we utilize the other nurses, to figure out what we should do and how we should approach the problem."
The health of the mother during pregnancy is extremely important for the baby's health, not only right at birth, but for the rest of its life. At two years old, a normally developed baby is already showing signs of empathy, and using as many as 300 words. Their brains have grown to about 80 percent of its adult size. To guide these developments, parents must understand this knowledge, and have the resources to act. A recent graduate of the nurse family partnership, Kierra Payton, says her own childhood created a big obstacle for her when dealing with her 22-month old son.
"Patience is one of the most important things that I had to overcome because I never had a child, I was a first time mother, I was the first child also, so everything for me I got it right then, I didn't have to wait for it cause I was the first child, and with my son, he likes to run around and jump on everything because he's a boy so you have to be patient with him."
When Payton enrolled in the Nurse Family partnership, she did not have a job, or a house of her own. She says her Nurse-Home visitor, Nancy Stone, helped in every aspect of her life.
"I really didn't have a stable place to go. My nurse was a really stable role model to me, if it wasn't for her, what I'm getting done now, I wouldn't have got it done with the house, and she was there, behind me one hundred percent. When I didn't know, have really anywhere to go, she mad it so you know, she called me every day and checked up on me. And now that I have my own place, she's still with me one hundred percent."
Payton is also working now. Even though their time together ends in September, Stone is confident that Payton will continue to show progress.
Stone says the mothers she s seen go through the program are ready to take on the responsibilities as single mothers.
"I can say that I have seen really great and positive parenting with these mothers that have gone through the program, so I am very well pleased. It all boils down to following the fidelity of this research model because it's proven to work and I have seen it work."
At the recent graduation one of the mother's spoke about her experience. The speakers Nurse home visitor, Elisha Brown, says she felt honored to be a part of a family for such an important time in a person's life.
"That brought a lot of warm memories for me of our time together, but it also made me feel proud that she retained some of the information that we'd discussed, and to think that I had a hand in the first two years of her child's life, I think that's really an honor and a privilege."
There's an annual fundraiser going on right now called Friends of NFP. They are calling for donations for first time mother's that don't have the money to fully support themselves.