The Nurse Family Partnership (NFP) program, which provides services to new mothers from pregnancy through the child’s second birthday, positively impacts children up through the age of 12 but affects male and female children differently, according to new analysis of a decades-old study on the model.
At age 2, both boys and girls involved with NFP were found to have better birth weights and home environments, according to An Analysis of the Memphis Nurse-Family Partnership Program. The study also notes superior maternal mental health and parenting attitudes among the parents.
“This new study on the Memphis NFP program contributes to research on a variety of home visiting programs that have shown positive effects on improving parenting practices, home environments and child outcomes,” said study author James Heckman, a University of Chicago professor and Nobel Prize winner in the field of economics. “Overall, they show that these programs warrant continued and increased investment.”
To produce the study, Heckman and researchers Maria Rosales, Rodrigo Pinto, Margaret Holland and Kevin Makino analyzed a 1990 randomized controlled trial of NFP that was conducted in Tennessee.
The study found that at age 6, four years after NFP ends, both boys and girls were found to have improved cognitive skills.
But girls also benefited from enhanced early socio-economic skills, according to the report. And boys demonstrated higher educational achievement at age 12, the last year of assessment. The researchers estimated that the improved educational achievement for boys was largely due to the cognitive benefits that were seen at age 6.
NFP has served more than 200,000 families in 43 states across the country. Last year, it was identified by the Commission to End Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities as the only American program proven to prevent maltreatment deaths.
Recently, NFP’s national office in Colorado began an ambitious national scaling of the model with a $200 million investment from the Blue Meridian Partners, a “big bet” philanthropic conglomerate spearheaded by the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation.
The first wave of Blue Meridian funds was made in 2015, with $26 million supporting “Pay for Success” projects in South Carolina, New York and Michigan. The next wave of $32.5 million was made last year to help NFP begin a seven-year expansion aimed at serving 100,000 families.
It is the second big funding boost of the decade for NFP, which is among the home visiting models approved for federal funds under the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program. MIECHV was established by the Affordable Care Act, and has since received a string of short-term reauthorizations at $400 million per year.
Heckman’s seal of approval is a timely attaboy for the home visiting field, as supporters push for more federal resources. Discussions are underway on a five-year reauthorization of MIECHV, which will expire without new legislation by September.
A bill introduced this summer by House Republicans would reauthorize the program at $400 million per year, and place new constraints on states to match more of the federal dollars for home visiting.
Advocates for MIECHV reauthorization, under the unified banner of the Home Visiting Coalition – NFP is among its many members – are asking for a five-year reauthorization that brings annual dollars up to $800 million.
NFP is currently led by CEO Roxane White, former chief of staff to Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D). In a 2015 interview with The Imprint, White estimated that “at least half, if not two-thirds” of NFP sites would close without the MIECHV program.