The Nurse Family Partnership is an "amazing program," says Nataisha Galarza Sanchez.
The home visiting program helped her achieve her goals, including going back to school; and to be a good mother to her young son, she said.
Recently, she and other participants in the Nurse Family Partnership and a similar program, Parents as Teachers, joined Lancaster County professionals in health care, law enforcement and social work on a Zoom call to urge local state lawmakers to boos funding in the 2021-22 budget.
The event was arranged by the advocacy group "Fight Crime: Invest in Kids PA." It is calling for $6.3 million in new spending: $2.4 million for the Nurse-Family Partnership, enough to serve an additional 400 families; and $3.9 million for competitive grants to home-visit programs such as Parents as Teachers, enough to serve about 500 to 600 more families.
Both programs receive funding through a mix of sources. The Nurse Family Partnership is supported in part through a grant from the United Way of Lancaster County, which sponsors One United Lancaster.
Home visiting programs connect parents with qualified professionals who provide advice, training and referrals to help them cope with the challenges they face. The Nurse-Family Partnership serves more than 270 Lancaster County families a year; while the Parents as Teachers program serves about 180 households.
Households must earn less than 200% of federal poverty limits: Only a small portion of eligible families take part, due to limited funding.
Both programs have maintained service during the Covid-19 pandemic by switching to online virtual visits.
Evidence-based home visitation programs are "incredibly beneficial," and are endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, said Dr. Joan Thode, a pediatrician with Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health.
Data shows they are effective at helping families attain self-sufficiency, improving their children's educational outcomes and ultimately at saving taxpayer dollars by reducing delinquency and future demands on social services.
About home-based visiting programs
Nurse Family Partnership
- Provides home visits by nurses to low-income first-time mothers from pregnancy through 24 months post-partum
- Available in 50 Pa. counties
- Currently receives $13 million in state funding
Parents as Teachers
- Serves low-income families from pregnancy through child's first year of school (age 5+/-)
- Funded in part through $13 million in competitive grants administered by the Pa. Office of Child Development & Early Learning.
More information on home-visitation programs in Pennsylvania is available here.
LG Health brought the Nurse-Family Partnership to Lancaster County in 2001, and has operated it since then. It's associated with a broad range of positive outcomes, and saves an estimated $5.70 per $1 invested, said Geoffrey Eddowes, senior vice president and senior operating officer at LG Health's Women & Babies Hospital.
The local Parents as Teachers program is housed at the Community Action Partnership of Lancaster County. It and the Nurse-Family Partnership are complementary; children who age out of the partnership are often enrolled in Parents as Teachers, which can accommodate them to age 5.
Galarza Sanchez now works at LG Health as an administrative assistant for the Nurse Family Partnership. She said seeing the program "behind the scenes" has impressed her even more.
Tadesse Tegegne, a Parents as Teachers participant, said it has taught him a huge amount about how to foster his children's development and he recommends it to all his friends.
Heather Adams, Lancaster County's district attorney, said the programs do "great work" in reducing the kinds of adverse childhood experiences associated with later involvement in crime.
"Strong families are the foundation of our communities," she said.
The two lawmakers on the call, state House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler and state Sen. Scott Martin, agreed the programs are worthwhile. While neither made any firm commitments, both indicated they would favor considering increased funding if budget realities permit it.
"The work that you guys do gets results," Martin said.