by Chelsea Chateauvert
Friends of the New York City Nurse-Family Partnership (Friends) has been operating for a little over five years and one of the main tenets of our work is removing the financial barriers that first-time, low-income moms in the NFP program face. Because of the generosity of our donors, we can channel funds to help them go back to school, address financial stress and break the cycle of poverty. . Heart’s Desire Awardees are vetted and recommended by their nurse and, through that connection, are given an opportunity to apply for funding from Friends. This method of giving money to mothers may seem out of the ordinary or risky but it is a method of support that in recent years has been gaining a lot of traction in big cities.
Recently, the New York Times published two articles highlighting this exact practice. One article stated, “A study that provided poor mothers with cash stipends for the first year of their children’s lives appears to have changed the babies’ brain activity in ways associated with stronger cognitive development,” and this is exactly what we do (DeParle). We provide mothers with funding through the first two years of their babies life. The article goes on to state, “evidence that a single year of subsidies could alter something as profound as brain functioning highlights the role that money may play in child development.” Friends firmly believes the toxic stress from poverty impedes a child’s ability to thrive. Our work is aimed towards a final goal of lifting mothers out of poverty and in turn, their babies. The mothers in our program are given funding with the freedom to decide where and how they will use it. We believe in our mothers and that they are the only ones who can make those decisions for their babies. Many studies show that poverty can hold children back in the earliest stages of life. By helping moms to climb out of poverty, we’re helping their babies get a better start in life.
The Bridge Project is a similar organization providing funds to low-income families. It is a $16Million effort funded by venture capitalists to measure the effect of regular, unconditional stipends on low-income families. Their studies eventually hope to show how continued unconditional income to a mom and family will help to change the course of a baby’s life when born into poverty. Our work is similar, however, our partnership with NFP and a 40-year proven program really enables us to help moms not only provide a healthy start for their families but envision a stronger future. The moms in our program have proven their commitment to bettering themselves and their babies through education and entrepreneurship and our work gives them the confidence to believe in themselves. 99% of the moms in our programs successfully achieve their goals when given funds from our Heart’s Desire Program. So though we may fall in the category of guaranteed-income* as described in the New York Times article, How $1,000 a Month in Guaranteed Income Is Helping N.Y.C. Mothers by Andy Newman, our mothers are given the added benefit of guidance and other program support catered towards first-time moms.
Mothers are the backbone of our society. They raise our children and run the homes, they work in important jobs (and many times more than one) on top of their role as mom and they do it all with grace. The pandemic has laid bare the limited support available for moms along with the lack of childcare options and mental health care. Moms are doing it all and our supporters are the village it takes to make it possible. We are honored to be able to provide a little support for the ones that need it most and thank you for joining us in our efforts to help lift the low-income, first-time mothers and their babies out of poverty and onto a better future.
*The central idea of the guaranteed-income movement is that the most effective treatment for poverty is to simply give people money and let them decide what to do with it, rather than impose the rules, limitations, and bureaucratic hoops that come with most safety-net programs.
- DeParle, Kason. “Cash Aid to Poor Mothers Increases Brain Activity in Babies, Study Finds” New York Times January 24, 2022 (https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/24/us/politics/child-tax-credit-brain-function.html)
- Newman, Andy. “How $1,000 a Month in Guaranteed Income Is Helping N.Y.C. Mothers.” New York Times. January 18, 2022. (https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/18/nyregion/guaranteed-income-nyc-bridge-project.html)