Recent evaluation studies show that nurse-family programs supporting vulnerable mothers benefit the mother, the child, and society

The Victoria Times Colonist published an article yesterday by Jim Hackler, adjunct professor of sociology at the University of Victoria, entitled “Build families, not prisons, to reduce crime.” Hackler reports on recent evaluations of nurse-family programs in the United States and argues that investing in these types of programs in Canada would have myriad benefits for mothers, children, and society.

Nurse-family programs use public health nurses to deliver support to vulnerable first-time mothers. These programs focus on improving prenatal health, reducing child abuse and enhancing family functioning in the first two years of the child’s life. Hackler reports on the 15 year follow-up and evaluation of three nurse-family programs in the United States

In one of the programs evaluated, those visited by nurses averaged:
  • fewer subsequent pregnancies
  • fewer months on welfare
  • fewer months receiving food stamps
  • a 79 per cent reduction in child abuse
  • a 44 per cent reduction in maternal misbehaviour due to alcohol and drug use
  • 69 per cent fewer arrests

Home visiting and mentoring programs, such as the Inter Tribal Health Maternal Child Health Home Visiting Program and the SOAR Mentor Program, provide invaluable support to vulnerable mothers and children and are an important approach to FASD prevention. (See a previous post on home visiting here).