When Alyssa Richmond was pregnant with her daughter Sophia, she knew she needed help. Alyssa is a single mother and reached out for help from the Nurse Family Partnership. The program has been in Onondaga County since 2007 and provides regular in home visitations for first time single mothers in high risk conditions. Public health nurse Ann Rogers helped Alyssa develop the parenting skills and understand what she needed to do to keep Sophia healthy - even while she was still in the womb.
"It helped me figure out what I needed to learn about to figure what she needs really," said Alyssa Richmond.
Recent studies have shown that early home visitation by a health professional can reduce abuse and neglect cases in low income, single parent homes by almost 50%.
On Thursday, Onondaga County District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick and law enforcement officials from across Central New York asked for more funding for home visitations programs in New York State. Currently, the programs receive less than $50 million dollars and Fitzpatrick said money spent on in home visitations would make more of a difference than most of the other programs he hears about.
"Everybody always points the finger at the criminal justice system or the cops and say - why aren't the cops doing more? We get it at the end. We get the tail end of the things that weren't done. Here you've got people that say we want to help along the way," said Fitzpatrick.
Only 10% of eligible families are currently able to participate in home visitations programs. Arielle Bernstein from the Fight Crime: Invest in Kids organization said she knows there are young mothers looking for help every day.
"We have the waiting lists, we know the names of the families who aren't getting these services," said Bernstein.
Children who grow up neglected or abused have almost double the risk to commit future crimes. They are also at significantly higher risk for emotional and behavioral problems as well as drug and alcohol abuse.
Alyssa Richmond says she is so grateful for everything she's learned and can provide Sophia with the strong foundation she might not have had otherwise.
"What would happen if I didn't have this information? What type of mother would I be if I didn't have this help? But because of this help - it's made me a strong, independent confident mom," said Richmond.
A study by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy last year found that at-risk families who had home visitations needed less foster care and hospital time. By requiring less care, the study said that each family saved almost $21,000 for taxpayers.