Advocates sound alarm as in-home maternity, family care program funding set to expire

Local families calling on Congress to re-authorize federal funding

SAN ANTONIO – The funding for a Nurse-Family Partnership is currently at stake. The family care program provides one-of-a-kind care to a client’s home that follows families from pregnancy through a child’s toddler years.

Taylor Newman and her 2-year-old daughter Madison are all smiles when they’re together.

It took a lot to get there, but they had special help.

Madison was born premature, and Newman was set up with a Nurse-Family Partnership within two weeks. An NFP is one-of-a-kind nursing care in the client’s home that follows families from pregnancy through their child’s toddler years.

Women are eligible if they are first-time moms, less than 28 weeks pregnant, and have a lower income. If they are eligible for WIC or Medicaid, they will be eligible for the NFP program.

The program helps with everything from breastfeeding and developmental milestones to accessing job training or childcare services.

“It’s basically like a mentorship. That’s how I felt. Then I would receive services and get like diapers, wipes,” Newman said.

The model for the program was created in the 1970′s and has been proven in studies to reduce preterm births and pediatric emergency room visits, increase kindergarten readiness, and improve economic stability.

“Clinical assessments in their home, evaluating blood pressure, teaching clients about preterm labor, about preeclampsia, teaching them how to advocate for themselves in the healthcare system,” said Angela Montez, the Manager of Nursing Practice at the National Service Office for Nurse-Family Partnership.

Montez said though the clinical work has saved women’s lives, it’s about much more than medical education.

“We have a mental health intervention which nurses will use intervention to address anxiety and depression,” she said.

Montez said every client’s care is different, and it’s based on their specific life goals.

“We strengthen that maternal role, which leads to reduction in child abuse and neglect and for people to make better decisions about themselves in healthy relationships, in self-sufficiency and having stable and safe housing,” Montez said.

Newman and Madison’s nurse, Kathy, became family.

“Kathy was there with me through everything, just educating me. They come to your home, and she followed me everywhere because first we were living in an apartment and then we moved to another apartment, and then I lost a job. I was kind of going through a rough time, and she was there with me,” Newman said.

There are 24 Nurse-Family Partnership program sites in Texas.

Seven of those are funded by the federal government, and that funding is about to expire next month on December 16.

Advocates want legislators to know that could leave thousands without services.

There are currently about 7,100 families in Texas using this program. The NFP programs are funded either by the state or federal government.

In Bexar County alone, there are 650 families utilizing it. Of those families, 140 are helped with federal funding.

That federal funding refers to the nurse-family partnership as the Maternal, Infant, Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV).

A bill to reauthorize The MIECHV funding still must pass the House and Senate.

The tight deadline has sent families and advocates into a panic.

More than 700 organizations nationwide just sent a joint letter to Congress requesting the funding be reauthorized immediately for families like Newman’s.

The Texas organizations listed in that letter include Lumin Education, Madonna Center, Inc., Texans Care for Children, Texas Pediatric Society, TexProtects, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, and United Way of the Coastal Bend.

“This community needs the support because of how our population is, especially low income,” Newman said.

She said the program changed her life.

“I cried when we left this program because I did not want to leave that connection, you know, just all the benefits of everything,” she said.

Once kids like Madison hit two, they graduate from the program.

Newman hopes legislators are paying attention and will reauthorize the funding so there can be many more graduates to come.

About the Authors:

Courtney Friedman is a KSAT anchor and reporter. She has an ongoing series called Loving in Fear, confronting Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She's also covered Hurricane Harvey, the shootings in Sutherland Springs and Santa Fe, and tornadoes throughout Texas. She’s a California native and proud Longhorn who loves calling SA home.

Before starting at KSAT in August 2011, Ken was a news photographer at KENS. Before that he was a news photographer at KVDA TV in San Antonio. Ken graduated from San Antonio College with an associate's degree in Radio, TV and Film. Ken has won a Sun Coast Emmy and four Lone Star Emmys. Ken has been in the TV industry since 1994.