The excellent Dec. 25 article New mom, new chapter, reminds me of a quote from 50 years ago, “There is no such thing as a baby.”
Dr. Donald Winnicott, a pediatrician and psychoanalyst was not playing games with words. He was stating a fact that is far too often neglected within our various systems that are supposed to support a young child’s development. The fact is that a baby by itself cannot survive. It must be appropriately nurtured, not only to survive but also to develop into a successful individual.
And who does the nurturing? Ideally, it will be the parents with support from other family members and caregivers. However, when parents and/or others are not fully capable of providing a nurturing environment — for whatever reason — it is the baby that suffers initially, but then society in later years.
The Young Parents Project can, and has, made a remarkable difference in the lives of both teen mothers and their babies during the past nine years. The program has an additional dimension that makes it particularly valuable for the families in that it works to change the negative environment in which many of the mothers themselves have been living.
Kudos to Judge Langer and the FSU Center for Prevention and Early Intervention as well as local funders for bringing this program to us. However, this brings up what I would hope to be a serious discussion regarding value and cost. I don’t know what the return on investment is for this program. It has to be high, for we are preventing most cases of present and future school failure and juvenile- and criminal-justice costs while helping two generations become law-abiding, tax-paying, healthy citizens. Yet, in Florida, the program is in only two counties and is limited in size.
What does it take for our policymakers to recognize both the short-term and long-term value of such a program and the importance of funding it statewide? This is an investment, not an expense.
I have one criticism to offer, and that is that the program only lasts two years. While that may be enough for some of the mothers, others could likely benefit by a longer period of support.
Wil Blechman, M.D., past president,
Florida Association for Infant Mental Health, Miami