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Sharline with Ajani
Sharline with Ajani

“I want to go to school and get an education and I want my child to be able to look up to me and follow in the right footsteps. I don’t want the child to want for anything, so I want to be financially stable;" says Sharline, "seeing my mother struggle with five kids growing up, I refuse to be in that situation. I don’t want to be like that.”  

Sharline is a Nurse-Family Partnership mom and with your support she is setting goals to improve her life and the life of her son, Ajani.  Following is more about Sharline and Ajani:

“Let’s start with Point A, where you are now, and draw a plan to get you to Point B, where you want to be.”

This is how nurse home visitor Coydette Binns begins her work with new clients in the Targeted Citywide Initiative, a Nurse-Family Partnership unit uniquely created to address the special needs of pregnant women and teens in homeless shelters, foster care, and Rikers correctional facility. Today she is meeting in Brooklyn, N.Y., with Sharline, a client like none she has met before.

Sharline’s “Point A” is similar to the starting point of other young women in the program – age 19, little family support, abandoned by her baby’s father and referred to the program by the group facility in which she is living after a stint of homelessness. But when Sharline starts talking about what she wants from her pregnancy and what she wants to achieve in life – her “Point B” – Coydette can barely take notes fast enough.

“For starters,” Sharline begins, “I want to go to school and get an education and I want my child to be able to look up to me and follow in the right footsteps. I don’t want the child to want for anything, so I want to be financially stable. Seeing my mother struggle with five kids growing up, I refuse to be in that situation. I don’t want to be like that.”

And she’s not done. “I am a Muslim and am into natural, holistic birthing options. I put my faith in God and I know my body will do what it needs to do. I’ve been doing research on the Internet and I’m interested in water birth and birthing centers.” Coydette continues jotting down notes. “I’m finishing school and doing an internship at Long Island Hospital because my goal is to be a midwife. First I have to be an RN and the closest thing to nursing is being a home health aide, so I want to look into programs to do that.”

Coydette smiles as she digests all of the information pouring forth from Sharline, who is not only intelligent and driven, but also beautiful – a mix of Puerto Rican and African-American heritage, tall and slim with a little baby bump. Coydette has become used to clients who have conducted research online, but Sharline is the most proactive, determined young woman she has ever met.

As a former labor and delivery nurse in a hospital, Coydette doesn’t know much about home birthing, nor does she have extensive experience with Muslim culture; what she does know is that her job as a nurse home visitor is to support Sharline in all of her choices and aspirations. This means that a lot of mutual learning will occur.

At future meetings, which take place bi-weekly at first and then weekly as Sharline’s due date approaches, Coydette and Sharline talk about nutrition, health and life skills. Coydette learns from Sharline that Muslim dietary guidelines are consistent with healthy pregnancy eating. Sharline learns from Coydette about Associate Degree programs that will best help her quickly enter the workforce.

Throughout the months, Coydette guides Sharline in identifying various holistic birthing options. There are challenges to getting health insurance to pay for delivery in a birthing center, and Sharline breaks down in tears one day, worried that she will have to deliver in a hospital against her wishes. Coydette encourages her to be persistent and eventually Sharline finds a midwife, and eventually, Sharline secures insurance to cover a home birth.

Throughout Sharline’s pregnancy, she continues to attend high school in the evenings and work six days a week in her home health aide training program. Coydette is there through it all, often meeting with Sharline on Friday evenings – the only time Sharline is available.

By Sharline’s due date, January 1, she has moved out of the group facility, which is standard procedure for pregnant women, and temporarily moved in to a friend’s home. On January 2, a snowy Saturday, Coydette arrives for a scheduled meeting, bearing a gift to celebrate the upcoming birth. After talking as usual, Coydette is about to say goodbye when Sharline suddenly jumps to her feet.

“I felt something pop!” she says. Coydette tells her to go to the bathroom and check to see what happened. Sharline, who by this point has learned about every stage of labor, announces that her mucus plug has broken. “Sharline! Oh my gosh! Call your midwife!” exclaims Coydette.

As Sharline’s labor pains intensify rapidly, Coydette becomes concerned. She is a trained labor and delivery nurse, but does not have privileges to deliver a baby, nor is that part of the role of an NFP nurse. “Sharline,” she says, trying to sound calm even if she doesn’t feel it, “If your midwife is not here soon, I will have to call 911!”

Fortunately, Tioma, the midwife, arrives within minutes. She takes charge quickly and calmly. Sharline’s sister is called and arrives a few minutes later with family and friends to provide support and comfort to Sharline.

Sharline’s pain intensifies and Tioma has her walk the hallway as she runs warm bath water. When Sharline screams in pain, all of her friends and family scream with her in encouragement. Eventually Tioma says it is time to get in the tub and Sharline slides in, feeling warm and safe in the water. About an hour later, less than four hours after jumping up from the couch, Sharline’s son Ajani arrives in the world. He lets out one little cry, then calmly, alertly, looks around at his surroundings.

Sharline has been told that newborns can’t smile, but her son is definitely smiling just moments after his birth. “He is smiling! This is a miracle!” everyone exclaims around her. It is exactly the calm, beautiful home birth that Sharline wanted.

Two months after Ajani is born, Sharline graduates from high school with one of the highest GPAs in her class and wins awards for perfect attendance and honor roll. Currently she and her son are living in a shelter for families. However, Sharline is in a college program working towards her nursing degree. For the next two years, Coydette will continue meeting with Sharline to help her develop a plan for permanent housing and provide parenting advice and personal encouragement.

As for Ajani, whose African name means “one who fights for what he believes in,” in six months he has grown from 5 pounds, 14 ounces, to a whopping 20 pounds. He appears to be a natural leader. Although Sharline had planned to breastfeed longer, he weans himself at four months. When he plays Peek-a-boo, he takes over from the adult he’s playing with and runs the show. Placed on his stomach to try crawling, he sets his sights on a spot in the room and wiggles nonstop until he gets there.

Despite being born into challenging life circumstances, Ajani appears to be smart, hardworking and determined to get what he wants. Just like his mother.

Thank you for supporting families like Sharline and Ajani and helping to improve their lives!

Baby Aaron Smiling
Baby Aaron Smiling

"When it came time to have the baby, Shirita was alone. Her mother was at the casino, her sister was not answering her cellphone, her boyfriend had disappeared months earlier, and her father she had not seen in years."

This is the opening paragraph from the March 8, 2015 New York Times Article, "Visiting Nurses, Helping Mothers on the Margins" by Sabrina Tavernise.  You can read the full article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/09/health/program-that-helps-new-mothers-learn-to-be-parents-faces-broader-test.html?smid=nytcore-iphone-share&smprod=nytcore-iphone&_r=2

Nurse-Family Partnership works with families to improve birth outcomes, the child's health and development and the economic self-sufficiency of families.

Your support of Nurse-Family Partnership helps vulnerable new moms give their babies the best possible start in life - and we thank you! 

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Your support helps to change the lives of families - the Nurse-Family Partnership nurses work with these families and really get a chance to see the imact.  Here's a little bit about one of our NFP nurses, Christina:

When I started as an Nurse-Family Partnership nurse home visitor and saw the scientific results in the training materials, I thought, "Okay, it looks good; but I'll believe it when I see it." Now that I've been part of the program for seven years, I know it works. I love this job. I wouldn't ever want to do anything else.

Yes, it's a hard job. But we love it because we know it's a valuable one. We don't take lightly the fact that we're working directly with people's lives. We know we have a hand in the future.

One of my moms, Charque, went into preterm labor while her boyfriend was in juvenile detention. But she's doing well now. She graduated high school; she's working and thinking about college.

But other situations are much tougher. I had one client I visited for two years, and I'll tell you, I had to physically and mentally prepare myself every time I went into her home. I just never knew what I was going to see. This young woman had fundamental physical and mental health issues, she didn't have a job, her husband worked at a donut shop, and her parents were both dead. She had no health insurance, she was smoking, the fridge was always empty, the house was a mess with toys everywhere, and she was spending all her money on toys for the baby.

But as bad as it was, I truly believe if I weren't visiting her, it would've been worse. I got her to quit smoking; I got her on a food stamp program and hooked up with a living skills specialist.

A lot of the young women I see come from homes that are really rough. Some have no positive male role models, so the first guy who comes along and shows them any attention, they think it's love, and the next thing you know, they're pregnant. They don't have anyone to talk to, and people are telling them "you ruined your life."

Well, I'm someone she can talk to. She knows I'm not judgmental; I just listen to what she has to say and try not to tell her what I would do. Of course it can be frustrating – they need to come to decisions on their own, and we back them up, whatever they decide.

You know, we not only help young girls, we're also helping their children. I run into my moms whose babies are now in kindergarten, and they tell me, "Oh, he's reading the books you brought me!" Then I know that, because they enjoy reading, they'll enjoy school – and that means they'll go further in life.

Your support makes these relationships possible and helps to change the lives of families - thank you!


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Your support of Nurse-Family Partnership is being recognized as helping to beat poverty!

Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn recognized Nurse-Family Partnership® as an effective solution in their column, "The Way to Beat Poverty" in The New York Times column on Sunday, Sept. 14.

They emphasize the power of parenting and intervening early, with evidence-based programs like Nurse-Family Partnership, to break the cycle of poverty.

Nurse-Family Partnership supports first-time moms living in poverty by providing each mom with a registered nurse who provides her with home visits throughout pregnancy until her child’s second birthday.

“The visits have been studied extensively through randomized controlled trials — the gold standard of evidence — and are stunningly effective. Children randomly assigned to nurse visits suffer 79 percent fewer cases of state-verified abuse or neglect than similar children randomly assigned to other programs. Even though the program ends at age 2, the children at age 15 have fewer than half as many arrests on average. At the 15-year follow-up, the mothers themselves have one-third fewer subsequent births and have spent 30 fewer months on welfare than the controls. A RAND Corporation study found that each dollar invested in nurse visits to low-income unmarried mothers produced $5.70 in benefits,” wrote Kristof and WuDunn.

Nurse-Family Partnership, they affirm, “…is an antipoverty program that is cheap, is backed by rigorous evidence and pays for itself several times over in reduced costs later on. Yet it has funds to serve only 2 percent to 3 percent of needy families. That’s infuriating."

They recommend supporting Nurse-Family Partnership to "give at-risk kids a shot at reaching the starting line." 

Thank you for your interest in Nurse-Family Partnership!

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One of the unique things about supporting Nurse-Family Partnership is that because of the research behind the program you can be sure that your support really empowers first-time moms to change their lives and the lives of their children.  Just this week, new research is out about one of the initial research trials of Nurse-Family Partnership, read the press release here:

JAMA Pediatrics Reports Nurse-Family Partnership Reduces Preventable
Death Among Mothers and Children

 MEMPHIS, TENN. (July 8, 2014) — A study published by JAMA Pediatrics – a leading, peer-reviewed
journal of the American Medical Association – found that Nurse-Family Partnership® (NFP) reduces
preventable death among both low-income mothers and their first-born children living in disadvantaged,
urban neighborhoods. This is the first randomized, clinical trial of an early intervention program
conducted in a high-income country to find evidence of reductions in maternal and child death.

“Death among mothers and children in these age ranges in the United States general population is rare, but
of enormous consequence. The high rates of death among mothers and children not receiving nurse-home
visits reflect the toxic conditions faced by too many low-income parents and children in our society. The
lower mortality rate found among nurse-visited mothers and children likely reflects the nurses’ support of
mothers’ basic human drives to protect their children and themselves,” said David Olds, Ph.D., professor
of pediatrics at the University of Colorado and lead investigator on the study.

Beginning in 1990, this trial enrolled low-income, primarily African-American mothers living in
disadvantaged neighborhoods in Memphis, Tenn., and assessed maternal and child mortality for over two
decades until 2011. Olds announced today these findings at a press conference held at Le Bonheur
Children’s Hospital, which serves families through NFP in Memphis.

Nurse-Family Partnership produced a significant reduction in preventable child death from birth until age
20. Children in the control group not receiving nurse-home visits had a mortality rate of 1.6% for
preventable causes – including sudden infant death syndrome, unintentional injuries and homicide. There
were zero preventable deaths among nurse-visited children.

In addition, over the same two-decade period, mothers who received nurse-home visits had significantly
lower rates of death for all causes compared to mothers not receiving nurse-home visits. Mothers in the “Death among mothers and children in these age ranges in the United States general population is rare, but
of enormous consequence. The high rates of death among mothers and children not receiving nurse-home
visits reflect the toxic conditions faced by too many low-income parents and children in our society. The
lower mortality rate found among nurse-visited mothers and children likely reflects the nurses’ support of
mothers’ basic human drives to protect their children and themselves,” said David Olds, Ph.D., professor
of pediatrics at the University of Colorado and lead investigator on the study.

Beginning in 1990, this trial enrolled low-income, primarily African-American mothers living in
disadvantaged neighborhoods in Memphis, Tenn., and assessed maternal and child mortality for over two
decades until 2011. Olds announced today these findings at a press conference held at Le Bonheur
Children’s Hospital, which serves families through NFP in Memphis.

Nurse-Family Partnership produced a significant reduction in preventable child death from birth until age
20. Children in the control group not receiving nurse-home visits had a mortality rate of 1.6% for
preventable causes – including sudden infant death syndrome, unintentional injuries and homicide. There
were zero preventable deaths among nurse-visited children.

In addition, over the same two-decade period, mothers who received nurse-home visits had significantly
lower rates of death for all causes compared to mothers not receiving nurse-home visits. Mothers in the control group who did not receive nurse-home visits were nearly three times more likely to die than were
nurse-visited mothers. The relative reduction in maternal mortality was even greater for deaths due to
external causes – those tied to maternal behaviors and environmental conditions – including unintentional
injuries, suicide, drug overdose and homicide. Mothers not receiving nurse-home visits were eight times
more likely to die of these causes than nurse-visited mothers.

“We intend to continue this research to see whether Nurse-Family Partnership reduces premature
mortality at later ages and corresponding health problems as the mothers and children grow older,” said
Olds.

Earlier follow-up studies of the Memphis trial found that nurse-visited mothers, compared to those
assigned to the control group, had better prenatal health and behavior; reduced rates of closely-spaced
subsequent pregnancies; decreased use of welfare, Medicaid and food stamps; fewer behavioral
impairments due to substance use; and fewer parenting attitudes that predispose them to abuse their
children. At earlier phases of follow-up, nurse-visited children,compared to children not receiving nurse-home visits, were less likely to be hospitalized for injuries through age two; less likely to have behavioral problems at school entry; and less likely to reveal depression, anxiety and substance use at age 12.

Your continued support of Nurse-Family Partnership ensures that these results can be realized by thousands of moms and babies across the United States.  

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Michelle Stapleton

Denver, CO United States

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