The Best Way to Invest in America's Future

By Markets Fool.com

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Baby Aiden

Andrea was just 22, and had only been dating Eric for a few months when she learned she was pregnant. Andrea and Eric felt overwhelmed by the news. They desperately needed help.

Fortunately, Andrea enrolled in the national Nurse-Family Partnership program, which provides nurse home-visits to low-income, first-time mothers. Andrea's nurse was able to answer questions about her pregnancy, and later, after her son Aiden was born, offered guidance on the baby's health and development.

Despite being young and woefully unprepared, Andrea and Eric eventually became successful parents. Andrea notes that "there isn't a class in school that tells you how to raise a kid" and believes that Nurse-Family Partnership is "like an instruction book that gives you the knowledge and positive encouragement to raise a baby." Aiden is now a thriving 11-year-old, and a big brother to his baby sister Briella, sister Autumn, and brother Cody.

By working with young, first-time moms, Nurse-Family Partnership is able to truly change lives for generations to come. That's why The Motley Fool is proud to announce its collaboration with Nurse-Family Partnership for our 2014 Foolanthropy campaign. Click here to invest your tax-deductible contribution before 2014 ends, or keep reading to learn more about this outstanding evidence-based community health program.

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How Nurse-Family Partnership Changes Lives
The Nurse-Family Partnership program provides nurse home visits to first-time, low-income expecting mothers, most of whom are teenagers and unmarried. Beginning in pregnancy, the young woman is supported by a registered nurse who provides her with home visits to help her have a healthy pregnancy. After birth, the home visits continue until her child's second birthday. The organization focuses on new moms because a first pregnancy provides the best opportunity to promote and teach positive health and development behaviors between a mother and her baby.

Since the program began in 1996, 206,412 families have been served. Currently, 30,309 families are enrolled in the Nurse-Family Partnership in 43 states, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and six Tribal communities.

The program is based on the innovative work of David Olds, Ph.D., professor of pediatrics, psychiatry, and preventive medicine at the University of Colorado Denver. Olds passionately believes that early childhood development is crucial to success later in life. This belief led him to create a nurse home visitation program for vulnerable moms and their children.

Infancy is a critical time for child development. The level of support an infant receives early on has a major lasting impact on the child's emotional, educational, and social progress throughout life. According to Olds, "Terrible things can be prevented and good things can be made to happen with the involvement of nurses with these families early in their lives."

Source: Nelson, C.A., In Neurons to Neighborhoods (2000). Shankoff, J. & Phillips, D. (Eds.)

Nurse-Family Partnership helps poor first-time mothers during that critical first two-year window of opportunity for babies by sending nurses to teach mothers good health practices, and how to provide responsible child care, plan their economic future, and find work.

The evidence is clear that providing mothers with high-quality medical and emotional support from experienced nurses is an effective way to promote positive results during a critical phase in children's lives.

Investing in early childhood development could be the best investment we can make in America's future, and Nurse-Family Partnership is one of the best programs out there.

The remarkable story of Dr. Olds and his innovative idea is featured in the best-seller A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunities, written by Pulitzer Prize winners Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. The authors write that Nurse-Family Partnership is "one of the most vigorously backed antipoverty programs in America, one that pays for itself several times over in reduced costs later on." Indeed, the RAND Corporation found that local communities can see up to a $5.70 return for every dollar they invest in the program.

One of the best antipoverty programs in America
Here are just a few of the impressive benefits that have been observed in randomized, controlled trials among families participating in Nurse-Family Partnership:

  • 48% reduction in child abuse and neglect: The support and knowledge of nurses help mothers and children avoid the worst outcomes.
  • 67% reduction in childhood behavioral and intellectual problems at age 6: Better parenting leads to improved behavioral, emotional, and educational development for children.
  • 59% reduction in youth crimes and arrests at age 15: A healthy foundation in childhood helps to set children on the right path for later in life.

In addition, a study by Ted Miller, Ph.D., with the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation predicts that when Nurse-Family Partnership is brought to scale, it can achieve a 60% reduction in infant mortality and a 53% reduction in alcohol, tobacco and marijuana use for children ages 12 through 15.

Studies also indicate the program has other positive benefits for families and even saves more money than it costs by reducing the government's welfare, juvenile crime, and other expenses.

  • 82% increase in months employed for mothers: In addition to teaching parenting skills, nurses help poor mothers plan their economic future and find work so they can get on their own feet.
  • 20% reduction in months on welfare
  • 68% increase in father's presence in household: Families that have access to Nurse-Family Partnership show greater stability in other areas, as well.

It's up to us, Fools
We couldn't be more impressed with the program's effectiveness at helping mothers who want to raise their babies well and just need knowledge and support.

Right now, there's a huge opportunity to help Nurse-Family Partnership expand. Currently, Nurse-Family Partnership only reaches 2%-3% of eligible families.

During last year's Foolanthropy drive, our members raised $113,000 to build schools in Guatemala, absolutely shattering our $50,000 goal.

This year, we're aiming to raise $75,000 for the 2014 Nurse-Family Partnership Foolanthropy campaign with the help of the Fool community. This investment will help expand nurse visits to even more communities around America.

The Fool has madea $5,000 initialcontribution, will match up to $5,000 in employee contributions, and will donate an additional $2,500 if we as a Foolish community reach our stretch goal of $100,000.

So now's your chance to chip in with usalongside the many Foolswho are helping to make sure that every child gets the very best possible start in life. (Remember to claim your 2014 tax deduction if you contribute before the year-end deadline.)

Click hereto find out more on how you can help, too.

The article The Best Way to Invest in America's Future originally appeared on Fool.com.

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