A nationwide effort to improve the lives of disadvantaged moms and their children through visits from nurses prevents child maltreatment by helping mothers plan future pregnancies and become financially self-sufficient. That’s the conclusion of a recent paper authored by human development professor John Eckenrode, associate director of the BCTR.
Eckenrode and his co-authors – Mary I. Campa, Pamela A. Morris, Charles R. Henderson, Jr., Kerry E. Bolger, Harriet Kitzman, and David L. Olds, – received the Outstanding Article Award for a publication in the Child Maltreatment Journal. They accepted the award at the annual conference of the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children last month in New Orleans.
The program is called the Nurse-Family Partnership. It works by having specially-trained nurses regularly visit young, first-time moms-to-be starting in pregnancy and continuing through the child’s second birthday. The nurses provide health checks and counseling about staying healthy during pregnancy and, after birth, also focus on the baby’s health and well-being. Previous studies have found that the program significantly reduces child abuse and neglect. More than 280,000 families have participated in the program over the course of decades.
This awarded study followed 400 mothers and children 15 years after they first participated in the program. Researchers were trying to determine exactly how visits from nurses led to reductions in child abuse and neglect. Their analysis found that the program helped mothers by encouraging them to wait before having more children and helping them to become financially independent.
“It was an honor to receive this award on behalf of the NFR research team,” Eckenrode said. “Our findings suggest that in order to prevent child maltreatment over the long-term, it is important to focus on family planning and assisting young families to become financially self-sufficient. This is in addition to promoting healthy behaviors, encouraging positive parenting practices, and attending to parents’ mental health needs.”
The article concluded that home-visiting programs can improve the lives of mothers and children by focusing on teaching mothers about planning future pregnancies and encouraging mothers to become economically self-sufficient.