Delaware governor meets with home visiting nurses

 Lt. Gov Matt Denn and Gov. Jack Markell listen as nurses in the NFP program talk about their work. (Charlie O'Neill/WHYY)

Lt. Gov Matt Denn and Gov. Jack Markell listen as nurses in the NFP program talk about their work. (Charlie O'Neill/WHYY)

After advocating for more funding for the Nurse Family Partnership program in his State of the State Address, Gov. Markell visited with some visiting nurses to learn more about the program.

Governor Jack Markell spent some time Friday morning with a group of nurses who do things “the old fashioned way”. Workers in the Nurse Family Partnership program make house calls with new mothers from poor or at risk households. Markell called for an expansion of the program to serve as many as 500 mothers during his January speech to lawmakers.

Markell and Lt. Gov. Matt Denn joined a handful of nurses who work in the program at the Wilmington offices of Children and Families First, which runs the program in Delaware.

Denn said while the program has been successful over its 35 year history, it’s not exactly clear why it works. “I would be particularly interested since you are out there working with these families day to day, what your sense is of why it is so effective,” Denn told the nurses.

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For nurse Chanai Delbridge, the key to the program’s success is consistency. “We are with them long term, and I think that is what supports the proven success and outcomes in the program because we develop that long term relationships,” Delbridge said.

Nurses make dozens of home visits with the new mothers from during their pregnancy through their child’s second birthday. During those visits, the nurses teach the mothers how to best care for their baby and themselves. Topics include health eating for both mother and child, as well as creating goals for improving their life.

The job is partly a personal mission for nurse Sarah Cantoni, who lost her own child due to SIDS. “We teach our clients ways to reduce the rates of SIDS in Delaware, and that’s a huge passion for me,” Cantoni said. “That is also a driving force for me.”

Markell commended the nurses for their dedication to a field within their industry that may not be as lucrative as other career paths within the nursing field. “The fact that you’ve dedicated your lives and your education and training to help these kids, I really believe it’s going to pay off huge dividends for years to come,” Markell said. “I really thank you for all you’re doing.”

 Organizers of the program say they’ve seen a 50 percent reduction in child abuse and neglect cases, as well as a decrease in pre-term deliveries and dependence on welfare as a result of the home training from the nurses.

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