NJ Advances Universal Newborn Home Visiting to Boost Maternal and Infant Health, Family Wellness

Morristown Minute

DCF is rolling out a Universal Newborn Home Visiting initiative to improve infant and maternal health in NJ.Photo byTroy TonUnsplash

DCF is rolling out a Universal Newborn Home Visiting initiative to improve infant and maternal health in NJ.

The New Jersey Department of Children and Families (DCF) is blazing a trail in advancing maternal and infant health and family wellness by rolling out a Universal Newborn Home Visiting initiative. The initiative forms a critical part of the Nurture NJ program championed by First Lady Tammy Murphy.

Releasing a Request for Proposals (RFP), the DCF is seeking partnerships to help drive this pioneering initiative, anticipated to go live in select locations in January 2024. New Jersey's commitment to the initiative positions it as a national leader in advancing this innovative approach to postnatal care.

This initiative is designed to drastically improve maternal and infant health outcomes by providing crucial support to new families during the initial weeks following the birth of a child, adoption, or foster home placement.

First Lady Tammy Murphy, a mother of four, championed the initiative saying, “The Universal Home Visiting program is an essential tool to catch any complications of labor and delivery as early as possible, save lives, and support every mother and family during the critical first few weeks with their baby.”

New Jersey is the second state in the U.S. to advance a universal home visiting (UHV) program for newborns, following the signing of legislation in July 2021 by Governor Murphy. Remarkably, New Jersey is the first state to offer a nurse home visit to families who have experienced the tragedy of stillbirth.

DCF Commissioner Christine Norbut Beyer added, “Universal Home Visiting will provide the option for a family to request a nurse visit in the home at a crucial time for the family, making sure mother and baby have received appropriate health check-ups and screenings, and referrals to additional services as necessary."

The RFP invites UHV providers to maintain teams of registered nurses (RNs) and support staff to serve families in the five initial counties – Cumberland, Gloucester, Mercer, Middlesex, and Essex. The program is entirely voluntary and open to all New Jersey families without eligibility restrictions.

The DCF has selected the evidence-based Family Connects model for the UHV initiative. Proven effective through two randomized control trials in Durham, North Carolina, the Family Connects model resulted in families having 44% lower rates of child protective services investigations through the child’s second birthday, and 39% lower investigation rates through the child’s fifth birthday. Mothers participating in the program were 30% less likely to experience possible postpartum depression or anxiety.

DCF's Division of Family and Community Partnerships Assistant Commissioner Sanford Starr stated, “Everywhere that it’s been implemented, the Universal Home Visiting model simply works, and results in better outcomes for mothers, infants, and whole families. We’re looking forward to getting this ground-breaking, proven prevention strategy off the ground, to positively affect the trajectory of all families in New Jersey.”

As New Jersey continues to tackle the challenges of a nationwide nursing shortage, the RFP and the initiative present a promising way forward, reinforcing the state's commitment to supporting and strengthening the health and well-being of its youngest residents and their families. 

Interested UHV providers are encouraged to submit their proposals by noon ET on June 28, 2023.

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