From a desire to help people, to a plan that truly does.
The story of how Nurse-Family Partnership grew into a program that helps moms and babies across the country.
Even as a child, David Olds knew he wanted to help people. But it wasn’t until after he graduated from Johns-Hopkins University and was working at an inner-city day care center that he figured out how he could do that effectively.
At that day care center, Olds cared for preschoolers damaged by abuse, and suffering the effects of their parents’ struggles. He wanted to help those children, but realized the best chance for giving them a better start in life was to provide that help much earlier, when they were infants – or even before they were born.
That realization led Olds to create a program that created supportive relationships between trained nurses and first-time, at-risk moms. Over the next 35 years, Olds tested the program, first in Elmira, New York, then Memphis, Tennessee, and then Denver, Colorado.
In each of those three very different communities, the results were the same: The program, by then called the Nurse-Family Partnership, not only improved children’s health and lives, but also helped their parents steer their own lives onto a more positive course.
By 1996, Olds was satisfied NFP was ready to be re-created and implemented in other communities. That same year, the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, funded NFP programs in six locations.
Since then, the program has grown, thanks to combinations of public and private funding. Today, Nurse-Family Partnership serves low-income, first-time moms and their babies in 41 states, the U.S. Virgin Islands and many Tribal communities.
But David Olds has not stopped trying to help kids, families, and communities. He and his team at the Prevention Research Center for Family and Child Health at the University of Colorado Denver continue to study the long-term effects working with trained nurses has on children and their mothers. And they continue studying ways to make the Nurse-Family Partnership even better.
“There is a magic window during pregnancy…it’s a time when the desire to be a good mother and raise a healthy, happy child creates motivation to overcome incredible obstacles including poverty, instability or abuse with the help of a well-trained nurse.”