With expanding knowledge of human growth and development in the earliest years of life, combined with results from longitudinal studies of child development programs, we now know that children’s success in preschool and beyond is built on the foundation of relationships, experiences, and skills they develop in their first three years of life. The LANL Foundation believes that investing in newborns at birth, when they begin learning, can change lives of individual children today and for years to come.
During 2005–2006, the LANL Foundation conducted research and consulted with early childhood development experts to identify a program that effectively serves the birth-to-three population and their families. The Foundation selected the First Born® Program (FBP) of Grant County, New Mexico, as the most promising model to meet the needs of children and families in Northern New Mexico.
First established by Vicki Johnson in 1997, FBP is a unique home visiting program designed to meet the needs of New Mexican families. Services are free and offered to all women pregnant for the first time and first-time families within the program service areas. At the program’s core is the conviction that a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby are not only critical to the immediate well-being of mother and child but are also integral to the long-term health and success of the family and community. The program curricula provide a comprehensive set of topics that families learn as well as specific tools, activities, and educational materials that home visitors can use to address them. The flexible and inclusive curricula can be adapted to each family’s needs.
In 2002, FBP was named one of the nation's 10 most innovative and exemplary prevention programs by the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention and other collaborative national agencies. The success of the program is based on several key characteristics. FBP is community based and works toward meeting local priorities through community involvement and collaboration. It is evidence based, with strong medical community support, rigorous staffing requirements, and clinical training protocols. The program uses exceptional family education resources, including three core curricula: First Born Prenatal Curriculum, First Born First Year of Life Curriculum, and First Born Toddler Curriculum. Additionally, the program has clearly articulated theory, implementation protocols, culturally sensitive components, program fidelity, high retention rates, sound evaluation, and integrity.
The FBP model is based on a simple equation: when the program’s resources are combined with local assets, the culmination is a strong, community-based project. An effective and sustainable program is dependent upon its relationship with local stakeholders and the involvement of all community networks. Each community has an array of local public, private, and nonprofit organizations with their own resources — personnel, space, expertise, equipment, economic power, etc. — that can contribute to the success of FBP. After first tapping into these local assets, the program and the community may need to look outside the immediate area to satisfy additional resource needs. In this way, the FBP then becomes the community’s bridge to external assets.
The FBP brings an array of resources to a community including new jobs with benefits, experts in the field of prenatal and early childhood issues, purchasing power, and many other resources that positively impact the local economy and build community capacity.
FBP Replication Projects
Three Northern New Mexico counties of Rio Arriba, Los Alamos, and Santa Fe are implementing FBP replication projects. Program replication involves three phases: building community capacity, hiring and training staff, and implementing services for families.
The Rio Arriba FBP, in association with Presbyterian Española Hospital, with support and assistance of the LANL Foundation, completed the first two phases of program replication in 2007 and 2008. This program has been providing home visiting services to families since May 2008, and service coordination has occurred with more than 22 community partners. Staff education and training are comprehensive and on-going. In 2008, services were provided to over 40% of eligible families in the county, with 102 families receiving 1,213 home visits. These visits included prenatal and postpartum visits by trained Home Visitors and a Nurse Home Visitor.
Both the Los Alamos County and the Santa Fe County (an initiative of the Santa Fe Children’s Project of the United Way of Santa Fe County) have completed the community capacity building phase of their program replication process and began offering services to families in 2009.
This initiative is funded by the LANL Foundation in collaboration with the State of New Mexico and 14 New Mexico private foundations.
Currently, First Born exists in 15 counties and there are plans to spread it to other counties in the State.
Each year, the number of families impacted grows. In 2013, First Born Program Home Visitors completed 15,434 face-to-face home visits, visiting 1,065 families, 31% of which are teen parents and 42% of which were enrolled during the prenatal period. In 2014, First Born Program Home Visitors completed 21,545 face-to-face home visits, visiting 1,360 families, 27% of which are teen parents and 55% of which were enrolled during the prenatal period.