A new study from Nobel laureate James Heckman provides a critical analysis of the Memphis Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) program, showing voluntary home visiting has extensive short- and long-term benefits for mothers and their children.
Home visiting programs pair families looking for additional support and mentoring with trained home visitors such as nurses, social workers, and educators. Home-visitors helps families lay the foundation for the health, education, development, and economic self-sufficiency of the entire family. Funding for this voluntary program at the federal level comes from the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program. However, to ensure MIECHV funding eligibility, programs must meet evidence-based benchmarks to meet expectations of demonstrated effectiveness.
Nurse-Family Partnership is one of 18 models providing voluntary home visiting for children and families across the country that receives funding through MIECHV. Through ongoing home visits from a registered nurse, low-income, first-time moms are able to receive specialized support and care from pregnancy until their child turns two-years-old.
Heckman’s research team evaluated a randomized control trial of the NFP program in Memphis, Tennessee. Researchers found that the voluntary home visiting program improved birth weights for infant boys, who tend to be more vulnerable during pregnancy. The evaluation also showed the NFP program in Memphis created more positive parenting attitudes and better maternal mental health. Additionally, the researchers found at age six, four years after the program ended, improved cognitive skills for boys and girls, and better social-emotional skills for girls. Positive effects at age six were largely attributable to the program’s impact on maternal health and early-life investments.
Findings from this study highlight the importance of, and need to invest in maternal and infant health and development. Nurse-Family Partnership, along with the other 18 MIECHV-funded home visiting models have proven to create positive outcomes for at-risk families. Investing in children from birth through family support programs ultimately saves money for tax payers as a result of the increased family self-sufficiency.
MIECHV is set to expire on September 30, 2017. If reauthorized with increased funding, MIECHV will have the ability to expand and improve existing evidence-based programs, enhance states’ ability to reach more vulnerable children and families, as well as create cost-savings for states and communities.
Read the full study from the Heckman Equation here.
Learn more about the effort to reauthorize MIECHV and home visiting programs at www.homevisitingcoalition.org.