Pregnant teenagers in Minneapolis appear to have a higher rate of graduation and healthy babies if they participate in a visiting nurse program.
Wilder Center researcher Richard Chase says preliminary results of the nine-year-old Minnesota Visiting Nurse Agency program show teen mothers and their babies who accept visits from nurses have better outcomes.
"What's difficult for home visiting programs, especially for high-risk families, is first to get them to accept the visit and then keep them engaged in ongoing visits," Chase said. "Because it often takes at least a year or more of visits to get the effect that you want to have in terms of changing behaviors and teaching the skills that they need."
Preliminary results of the more than 500 teen mothers and babies who were surveyed also show the program may help increase economic self-sufficiency and keep teen parents in school.
The study also shows the visits from nurses help teen mothers bond with their babies.
"Without some sort of intervention, a lot of those babies would be vulnerable to some adverse consequences because the homes that they are living in are not safe, they are not enriching, they are not stable," Chase said. "The mothers do not have the skills or the training they need to effectively bond with those babies, which is so important for their development and their brain development."
The study included 526 pregnant and parenting teens, with the two largest ethnic groups being African American and Hispanic.
Among teens who received support from an MVNA public health nurse, 95 percent had babies with a healthy birth weight, versus 90 percent of teens not enrolled in the program, and 95 percent of teens carried their babies to full term, versus 89 percent for teens who were not in the program.