Chicago, Illinois, January 25, 2011 - A new study by the state Office of Children and Family Services and the State University of New York shows that Healthy Families New York (HFNY) has had a profound impact on the lives of children and their families; resulting in fewer incidents of child abuse, fewer low birth weight babies and greater success in school for kids whose mothers participated.
HFNY believes strongly in enhancing the healthy child development of all children in New York and the program promotes optimal child health, connecting families with medical providers for prenatal and well-baby visits and immunizations. It also helps parents to develop strong, positive relationships with their children and assesses children for developmental delays.
“When we ask ourselves why it so important to invest in innovative programming like HFNY, it’s because we know we can have this kind of positive impact on children’s lives,” said James M. Hmurovich, President & CEO of Prevent Child Abuse America, the home of Healthy Families America.
From the time the program began in 1995 through the end of 2009, HFNY provided 777,000 home visits to more than 25,760 families. Participants are screened to identify risk factors and stressors the family may face. Each family is offered long-term in-home services until the child is in school or Head Start.
The findings of the seven-year randomized controlled trial include the following:
Across the seven years, mothers who received HFNY reported many fewer incidents of serious physical abuse than mothers in a control group did.
At ages 2, 3, and 7, young, first-time mothers who entered the program early in pregnancy consistently reported and were repeatedly observed using lower levels of harsh parenting as compared to their counterparts in the control group.
From the study’s start through age seven, HFNY mothers who had substantiated child maltreatment reports prior to random assignment had markedly lower rates of involvement in confirmed CPS reports for neglect (38% vs. 57%), confirmed reports for physical abuse (3% vs. 13%), and preventive, protective, and placement services (38% vs. 60%) as compared to a subset of similar women from the control group.
Overall, HFNY mothers were more likely to be observed using parenting strategies that stimulated the child’s cognitive skills and to report using nonviolent discipline strategies.
Children in HFNY were more likely to participate in a gifted program at school, less likely to receive special education services, and less likely to report skipping school. Educational advantages were even more striking among children born to first-time mothers under age 19 who were offered HFNY in early pregnancy. These children were half as likely to repeat a grade and considerably less likely to score below average on a standardized vocabulary test.
In addition to impacts on parenting and children’s education, women who enrolled in HFNY at or before 30 weeks of pregnancy were about half as likely to deliver low birth weight babies. This effect was especially notable among black and Latina mothers, two groups that persistently experience high levels of poor birth outcomes.
In terms of dollars and cents, the study also found that with mothers who had histories of engaging in child abuse or neglect, Healthy Families New York generated a return of more than $3 for every dollar spent due to reduced involvement with the child welfare system and other government programs.
“We need to celebrate all that Healthy Families New York has accomplished,” Hmurovich continued, “but taking all of this into account, we also need to ask ourselves what it would take to support the expansion of this program across New York, and across the nation. Why not have this kind of impact in communities everywhere?”