Early help with babies saves money later, city officials say

city-hallCity council members want to push for more state and federal money to help poor, first time mothers and their babies, they said today.

Members of the Neighborhoods, Housing and Healthy Communities Committee spoke after a canny, 2-year-old lobbyist waved and cooed on her mother’s lap throughout the meeting.

They voted to approve a new state grant that pays for a $425,000 contract to continue the Building Blocks program, and then agreed to push for more.

The girl and her teenage mother are graduating from Building Blocks and there are among about 100 Kansas City mothers and babies in it. Health officials said it should be should be available to all 2,100 such mothers in the city.

The program lasts 2 ½ years, from mid pregnancy to when the baby turns 2 years old. It employs four nurses who regularly visit the women and their babies.

Studies show that such early intervention programs save money by improving child health, reducing welfare costs long term and leading to better high school graduation rates for the children, said Josie Adams, program director.

That reduces crime and other social costs as well, she said.

She added, “The children we put in the program are healthier and ready to learn after they go to school.”

Each nurse is allowed to work with up to 25 mothers and health officials would like to be able to hire 10 more nurses, they said.

The grant and contract for renewing the four nurses now goes to the full council for final approval.

Councilman Scott Wagner told health officials to then prepare to help lobby for more federal and state money to hire more nurses.

The girl, who never cried, left quietly with her mother, her job done.

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