Comprehensive community health models at the heart of Nurture KC’s programs

Nurture KC, a local organization dedicated exclusively to addressing infant and maternal health issues, has been steadfastly serving the Kansas City metro area since its inception in 2000. Nurture KC began in response to the alarming surge in infant mortality nationally and locally, with a focus on addressing the disparate impact on Black infants in Missouri (1983). The Children’s Services Fund of Jackson County funds Nurture KC’s Promise 1000 program, a home visitation program for babies and toddlers. Named for the pivotal first thousand days of a child’s life, Promise 1000 underscores the significance of this foundational period in shaping a child’s long-term mental, emotional, and behavioral health. Nurture KC has a laser focus on community health worker models. To this end, it fosters enduring relationships with families, meeting them where they are — in their homes — to cultivate trust and empower them to shape healthy futures for children.

“Care,” by Nurture KC’s definition, extends beyond physical well-being; Nurture KC recognizes the intrinsic link between maternal mental health and child development and thus advocates for comprehensive support systems. The CSF partnership helps facilitate Nurture KC’s modus operandi where mothers don’t have to face means testing or stringent qualifications in order to receive the comprehensive health care they need to ensure healthy beginnings for their babies. 

Supporting Early Childhood Development through Maternal Wellbeing Programs

Through their programs, Nurture KC extends a lifeline to pregnant women residing in the 14 high-risk zip codes of Kansas City, Missouri, and Kansas. These zip codes encompass neighborhoods where disparately high mortality rates occur among communities of color. As the fiscal agent for Promise 1000, Nurture KC plays a pivotal role in orchestrating a collaborative effort among partner agencies to deliver essential services directly to families of infants and toddlers. Grounded in evidence-based practices, Promise 1000 mirrors Nurture KC’s own principles, reinforcing the importance of nurturing environments and supportive relationships in fostering healthy development. What sets Promise 1000 apart is its collective impact model. 

Recognizing the profound impact of home visiting on family well-being, Promise 1000 prioritizes personalized support delivered directly to the doorsteps of those in need. “The partner agencies truly represent the families they serve,” emphasizes Executive Director Tracy Russell. “Community health models work to build trust and relationships and that’s especially important here because it is crucial for individuals to commit to a program that spans three years and fully engage with it. All the partner agencies and home visitors, they’re all integral to this process.”  To give a sense of the scope of Nurture KC’s in-home care, last year alone, they conducted 7,000 home visits, supporting 860 participants in Promise 1000.”

In a similar, relentless pursuit of child well-being, Nurture KC also partners with the CSF to administer the Moving Beyond Depression program for moms. Recognized as the gold standard for in-home therapy, Moving Beyond Depression delivers tailored interventions through the expertise of master’s level therapists, directly in the comfort of mothers’ homes. “Moving Beyond Depression underscores the vital link between maternal health and the well-being of the baby,” explains Ms. Russell. “The data indicates that a mother’s experience can significantly affect her child, potentially leading to disengagement or lack of attention. This impacts child development, and a child’s future outcomes tremendously. This program enables children to reach their developmental milestones and even facilitates how families function. Both of these are foundations for healthy communities.”

By offering intensive, evidence-based counseling over 19 in-home sessions, Moving Beyond Depression empowers mothers to confront and overcome the challenges of depression, paving the way for enhanced parenting skills, improved social support networks, and ultimately, brighter futures for both mothers and their children. In 2023, Promise 1000 provided support to 126 mothers through the Moving Beyond Depression program. Remarkably, 77% of these mothers recovered by the end of treatment and no longer met the criteria for major depressive disorder. Additionally, an overwhelming 85% of the mothers in the program reported significant reductions in parenting stress and increases in social support.

Supporting the collective impact model for sustained impact

By partnering with the CSF, Nurture KC was able to double the number of families served through Promise 1000 and stabilize the delivery of services. Ms. Russell also shared how much she and other leaders value CSF’s role as a convener of organizations, saying “The CSF understands that the nonprofit community needs to collaborate. If we all work independently and are in competition or perceived competition with one another, that doesn’t help the kids of Kansas City. And then, I think they put their money where their mouth is, funding a collective impact model.  In the funding community, funders often view each and every organization in a vacuum and an entity unto itself, without looking at how we might come together for greater impact. The Children’s Service Fund gets the importance of changing the way we deliver services and work together and that has been unbelievably important for the work that we do. They continue to recognize that though the players may change, the goals are the same and they facilitate achieving those goals for our kids.”

Today, Nurture KC’s dedication to Kansas City’s families has found yet another avenue of impact: the Safe Sleep initiative. The Safe Sleep initiative is a collaborative endeavor aimed at addressing the pervasive issue of unsafe sleep practices, a leading driver of infant mortality, particularly among Black infants in the region. Through Nurture KC’s leadership and facilitation, seven metro area hospitals have undertaken the Cribs for Kids Safe Sleep certification program and are currently equipping new parents with tools and knowledge to engage in safe sleep practices in their homes.”

Concluding with final thoughts regarding the partnership with the CSF, Ms. Russell voices a deep appreciation for the CSF’s profound understanding of the intricate web of challenges facing Kansas City’s children and families. “That the CSF funds programs like Moving Beyond Depression and Promise 1000 demonstrates their broad perspective on positively influencing children’s lives,” shared Ms. Russell. “They understand the significance of addressing factors beyond immediate, direct services for children and recognize the long-term impact surrounding environments have on children. This holistic approach is invaluable in shaping healthy futures for children.” 

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