|Early Childhood Initiative & First Born Home Visiting Program
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.
Home Visiting: An Important Strategy for Early Learning
There are few events that have the potential to bring a family as much joy as the birth of a baby. However, a new baby can also bring expected changes and challenges. Many first-time mothers find themselves feeling isolated or depressed, new fathers may not feel prepared to deal with the demands of parenthood, and a new baby can add financial strain and stress to a family. How the birth of a child affects the individual family depends their coping skills and access to tools and supportive resources.
The LANL Foundation is a champion of Home Visiting as an effective strategy that builds stronger children, families, and communities. Home Visiting programs and caring, culturally sensitive professionals work with parents in the comfort of their home to share information related to their child’s healthy development, to strengthen the parent-child relationship, and to promote the importance of early learning that helps boost school readiness and academic achievement.
Through free, voluntary home visits, expectant parents learn how to care for themselves and their unborn child by accessing prenatal care, feel supported and confident in parenting practices, have up-to-date knowledge about child health and development, and connect with additional resources in their community. Parents who are struggling or at-risk have a mentor to guide them in building resilience in themselves and their child, which prevents Adverse Childhood Experiences and creates the foundation for strong relationships throughout life.
Importance of Home Visiting
The positive impact of home visiting is made clear to program staff every day. When a young mother on the Navajo Nation invites the home visitor to visit her at her mother’s home the following week so she doesn’t miss an appointment, or an educated mother struggling with maternal depression says she would have never made it through without the support of the home visitor, we know that we are making a difference in these families lives.
Parents are a child’s first teachers. That relationship plays a vital role in promoting the healthy physical, emotional, and cognitive development of children during the critical first three years of life. Since 2006, the LANL Foundation has supported Home Visiting in New Mexico by assisting with the replication of First Born®, a program developed by Vicki Johnson in 1997 to meet the needs of New Mexican families, first serving Grant County.
The LANL Foundation is honored to have had the opportunity to First Born from a single program to 10 sites serving 17 counties throughout the state in a ten-year period. As a testament to its success and reach, First Born served over 7,000 families with 23,630 home visits in 2015 alone. Within the next year, Rand Corporation is expected to release findings of a multi-year study that will determine First Born to be “evidence-based” as a result of the program’s positive outcomes for first-time families and their children.
Moving away from direct First Born program management, LANL Foundation is now working to build infrastructure and continuous quality improvement within First Born programs throughout the state. The Foundation is also broadening its focus beyond one Home Visiting program model to support collaboration among all effective programs in New Mexico.
New in 2016, the Foundation convened a Home Visiting Collaborative to form relationships among partners, share research and promising practices, discuss issues, and support quality and consistency of data collection and reporting in conjunction with the NM Children, Youth and Families Department database to strengthen home visiting throughout the state.
First Born Program History &
LANL Foundation's Role in Replication
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.
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.