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Lincoln County Board of Commissioners

Lincoln County Board of Commissioners

Rebecca Austen and Shelley Paeth, Nurse Family Partnership Program

Rebecca Austen and Shelley Paeth, Nurse Family Partnership Program

We hear it all the time about kids raised by parents who don’t know the ropes or what works to ensure their children are raised for success. Their children fail at school, have horrible eating habits and too often run afoul of the law, early and then often. They later start “failing families” of their own which keeps the cycle going.

And the burden on society as a whole is horrendous. Medical problems during pregnancy, health problems after birth, family drug and alcohol abuse – low grades in school and low wages at work that don’t pay enough to lift families up to middle class standards. In short, it’s the cycle of poverty that guarantees full employment for whoever aspires to work in the Prison Industrial Complex with it’s crushing burden on taxpayers. The cost of keeping a prisoner behind bars varies from $25,000 to $50,000 a year – oftentimes it’s much higher if there are medical complications involved.

But perhaps miraculously, government funds have been made available to intervene in these sorrowful processes if only by acknowledging that intervening is cheaper than mountains of unpaid medical, mental health, law enforcement, judicial and incarceration costs.

Here in Lincoln County, the program is called the Nurse Family Partnership Program. Rebecca Austen and Shelley Paeth gave county commissioners an update on their progress to date on how the program is doing. And from what they reported, it’s doing pretty well.

It’s a voluntary program, so low income women who become pregnant must find value in having a “family mentor” enter their life; a mentor who is a fully certified Registered Nurse with a lot of training in motivating a pregnant woman to want the best for her child, for herself and for her family.

The mentoring RN helps the soon-to-be parent to understand the benefits of smoking cessation, going easy on the alcohol (preferably none at all), eating well herself through food assistance programs aimed at pregnant women and taking the baby to full term which ensures maximum early brain development. And once born, breastfeeding the baby for an appropriate amount of time to ensure it gets the full nutritional advantages of such feeding.

As the baby grows and matures over the next two years, the mentor remains at the mother’s side, helping her to make sure the baby gets all of its vaccinations, proper nutrition and proper parenting that forms the baby’s global life view and expectations as it grows into full blown childhood.

The RN mentor also acts as a guide to expose the mother to the realities of unplanned further pregnancies and helps her to realize that after the birth of her first baby, she needs to not only take care of the baby, but to take care of herself by imagining a future for herself as gainfully employed and charting a life worth living for herself, not only as a mother, but as a contributor to society at large. In other words, not having another child until she makes her own way in the world – preferably in a stable, loving nuclear family environment.

The program emphasizes the importance of low income women to come to grips with the reality of how having more babies before they can properly care for them shortchanges the babies and themselves. Making a decision to space her children over a longer period of time gives her opportunities to better educate herself and to prepare herself for a productive working life that her children can look up to and emulate – and to learn all of the life lessons and values that such a lifestyle teaches.

Program presenters Rebecca Austen and Shelley Paeth told commissioners that the program is already showing progress for young, low income mothers by reducing smoking during pregnancy – even cessation, avoiding alcohol, taking babies to full term and by teaching them healthier ways of living for their babies and for their long journey together as parent and child.

Austen and Paeth said they would be giving periodic progress reports to demonstrate the power of loving and caring intervention by competent intervenors whose sole aim is to improve the lives of parents and their children, while reducing the number of dysfunctional families in our community and the lifetime burdens they place on taxpayers.

bcm.9-27-13

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