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Nurses help low-income, first-time mothers in NYC


Wanna hear something super inspiring?

Joanne Schmidt is a nurse for the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, in a program called the Nurse-Family Partnership. The program takes specifically trained nurses and matches them up with low-income, first-time mothers.

With as many as 15 clients at any time, Schmidt meets with the mothers at the start of their pregnancies and then reconvenes at the mother’s home every week or two until the child’s second birthday. And she’s just one of the nurses–there are 91 serving 1,940 families.

Raised mostly by her maternal grandmother and aunt, Schmidt had a bit of a rough start at life. She went through a perennial party period and has a tattoo that says “bad girl” in Chinese. But that’s all changed. Now she is a Christian, a PTA president, a mother to a 16-year-old and, of course, a nurse. And she works her butt off–her team takes the tough cases on, including mothers in foster care, homeless shelters or Rikers Island.

The program was started in upstate New York in the 1970s and now exists in some form in 42 states. It is one of the rare public initiatives that has proven consistent and with benefit for the mothers and children, along with significant savings for taxpayers.

The New York Times says that “In different studies on different demographic groups, women in the program have had fewer premature deliveries, smoked less during pregnancy, spent less time on public assistance, waited longer to have subsequent children, had fewer arrests and convictions, and maintained longer contact with their baby’s fathers. Their children have had fewer language delays and reported less abuse and neglect, slightly higher I.Q. scores, fewer arrests and convictions by age 19, and less depression and anxiety.”

A 2011 study projected that once a child in the program turns 12, the city, state and federal governments will have saved a combined $27,895 — more than twice the program’s cost per child. The study was conducted by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation using data from the Nurse-Family Partnership’s research.

To read much more on this program, including an in-depth look at three of the nurses in the program’s current roster, head on over to the New York Times.

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