Law enforcement leaders urge funding renewal for program that helps moms and kids

A federal program that sends nurses into the homes of young and expectant mothers has reduced crime and incarceration rates among N.C. women and should be renewed, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Rodney Monroe and Mecklenburg County District Attorney Andrew Murray said at a news conference Thursday.

They are among 1,000 police chiefs, sheriffs and prosecutors from across the country who signed a letter urging Congress to renew funding for the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting program. Funding will otherwise dry up at the end of March.

The funding is important, advocates say, because at least 200,000 women are imprisoned across the country, and because nearly two-thirds of the women in state prisons are mothers.

In North Carolina, nearly 2,700 women are incarcerated and 26,000 are on probation or parole, according to Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a national organization of law enforcement leaders and crime victims.

The organization says the program cuts incarceration rates in half.

“It’s about saving lives, abating crime,” Monroe said.

He pointed to his department’s arrest this week of a 35-year-old woman on charges of abusing her children.

“It’s probably one of the most disheartening crimes we in law enforcement have to investigate, and in most cases is preventable...,” Monroe said. “If you think about the pressures of parenting, this program is there to help them.”

At least 500 mothers in Mecklenburg County participate in the program, he said.

Nurses provide pregnant women in the program ways to ensure healthy births. Women learn to understand their children’s emotional needs and how to respond appropriately to stressful parenting situations.

The nurses help the women set goals, stay in school and then get jobs, said registered nurse Ursula Douglas, who manages the Nurse-Family Partnership program in Mecklenburg County. Women are enrolled before their 28th week of pregnancy, she said.

The program, Murray said, has bipartisan support from law enforcement across the state and nation.

“It cuts crime, saves lives and saves money,” Murray said.