Leading on Fighting Poverty

Many hold dear to the Horatio Alger “rags to riches” story of how a poor child can make it in America. Through hard work, persistence, and a little bit of luck, anyone can get ahead.

While this myth might still stir dreams for some, the cold, hard truth of life in Charlotte today is that if you are born poor in Charlotte, you are likely to remain poor in Charlotte.

Many of us don’t want to believe this is true, but the inescapable reality of this situation was brought to light in exhaustive research and analysis in the recently released Charlotte-Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force Report.

Charlotte tends to trap poor people in life situations that make climbing out of poverty extraordinarily difficult. We have pockets of highly concentrated poverty in a handful of zip codes (like 28208) where the likelihood of a poor child moving up the economic ladder of success is the lowest of any major city in the country.

So what do we do about it?

The Task Force report provides an excellent overview of the challenge, and gives us a road map for what we need to do as a united community to improve conditions for all of our citizens.

The very good news is that we do not need to start from scratch in conceiving or identifying programs that work. We already have proven interventions taking hold and flourishing in our community that we know make a difference in the lives of those with limited resources. If these programs are brought to scale they could make a big impact on the pervasive grip of poverty that leaves far too many of our families behind.

Consider Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) and its impact in Charlotte.

NFP is an evidence-based, community health intervention program that we know transforms the lives of vulnerable, low-income mothers pregnant with their first child. NFP nurses make repeated visits into the homes of pregnant moms, bonding with the mother before their baby is born, and then staying with the family for two more years after the birth of the child.

When implemented with fidelity to the NFP model, pregnancy outcomes are better, we find improvements in child health and development, and over the long-term we discover that the economic self-sufficiency of the family is improved.

In addition, NFP actually saves the public money through reductions in spending on Medicaid, criminal justice programs, and many other government services.

Care Ring serves as the lead agency for NFP in the Charlotte region and the results of our work in our growing this program are many, including:

  • Nearly 90% of babies in our NFP program are born full-term
  • For those in our program there is a 70% reduction in the experience of violence (intimate partner physical violence) during pregnancy
  • There is a 31% reduction in maternal smoking during pregnancy

There are a host of additional positive, proven outcomes through NFP – including delaying second pregnancies until families are ready, preparing mom to return to school or work after birth, and much more.

Care Ring NFP has more than doubled the number of families served in recent years, now with a case load of over 200 families currently receiving this intensive intervention in Charlotte today.

So many groups and individuals have been central to providing Care Ring NFP the opportunity to drive these outcomes forward. From early investments from entrepreneurs like Social Venture Partners – Charlotte, to long-time support from the United Way of Central Carolinas, Duke Endowment, the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, Sisters of Mercy of North Carolina, Mecklenburg County, Smart Start of Mecklenburg County and many others, Care Ring NFP is directly addressing and improving Charlotte’s economic mobility challenge.

The demand for NFP from new moms who would be eligible for this program is increasing, and the very good news is that this demand is occurring just as the full weight of the Task Force recommendations are coming out.

We are ready to dramatically grow NFP in Charlotte and excited about the potential of bringing this proven poverty-fighting program to more families. We know how to successfully operate the program, we have the staff and infrastructure in place to support expansion, and we are poised to partner with others across Mecklenburg County to bring NFP to more families.

We are currently formalizing new alliances to expand NFP’s reach through partnerships with major health systems like Novant Health. The North Carolina General Assembly – with strong support from Republicans and Democrats – recognizes the power of NFP and continues to invest in its growth, and we are eager to expand our partnership with the state to reach more families.

Improving birth outcomes for all children and their mothers is one of the Task Force’s central strategies, and a call to pursue additional funding for evidence-based programs like NFP is a specific recommendation.

Bravo to the Task Force!

With additional funding we can reach more families in neighborhoods with high concentrations of poverty, giving more families hope through the proven poverty-fighting power of NFP.

This work is hard and the days ahead will by no means be easy, especially for those living in Charlotte’s high poverty zip codes. But through wise investments in programs like NFP we can begin to reverse the negative impact that intergenerational poverty has on the lives of far too many in Charlotte.

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