Chirlane McCray, a new mom, and a ittle tiny new person, just look at the ittle HANDS. Photo: NYC Mayor's office.

If this week has you doubting there's any hope at all, read this: New York City is doing something neat and smart and kind. Starting this spring in Brooklyn, and eventually expanding to the entire city, a new program will let new parents request home visits from baby experts -- that is, adults who know about babies, not babies, whose expertise is often limited to chewing their own feet and pooping. The idea is to help new parents make sense of the small squalling human beings who have suddenly invaded their homes, and to check up on how the parents are doing, too.

The program, with the straightforward name "New Family Home Visits," will provide up to six home visits from a nurse, community health worker, or doula, and will be available to all new parents. Heck, the visits will even be available to new adoptive parents and parents who used surrogates.

Blue babbling binkies! Did Finland (home of the free baby-supplies box that doubles as a crib) go and annex New York City while we weren't looking? If so, can Finland just take over altogether? This is what governments should be doing everywhere!


The program is part of a $43 million effort bringing together city services and nonprofits to address postnatal maternal mental health, especially postpartum depression. It's being organized by Chirlane McCray, who also heads the city's mental health initiative, ThriveNYC. McCray told the New York Times her own first baby had been challenging:

The umbilical cord had gotten entangled around her daughter's neck, and the doctors wanted to keep the baby at the hospital for three days.

"I couldn't bring my baby home. I was a mess [...] There should have been someone other than the nurses and the doctors to talk to."

And now there will be someone for new parents to consult with. Oh, yes, and the Times casually mentions, eleven paragraphs in, that McCray is married to this guy Bill DeBlasio, noting that he has "made early childhood development a strong focus of his tenure with the creation of free universal prekindergarten and preschool." (Also, it's a neat writing trick for readers outside NYC -- the initial emphasis is on who McCray is and what she's doing, not who her spouse is. Nicely done!)

The visits will include screenings for post-partum depression and anxiety, which the Times notes as many as one in five women experience during or after pregnancy. The New York program will be similar to those already up and running elsewhere, and when it's fully in place by 2024, it will be the largest home-visit program in the USA. The goal of all of 'em is

to help increase cognitive development in children, reduce emergency room visits and help decrease preterm births [...]

Research from the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation at the federal Administration for Children and Families found home visitation programs produced positive outcomes in child development, reductions in child abuse and maternal and child health.

You'll know the programs are really catching on and helping lots of families when Tucker Carlson starts complaining that they're making women lazy and spreading socialism. Especially because the service will be available to all new parents, yes even the gays and the trans people. There won't even be an income test, because New York has this nutty idea that when parents and kids thrive, it's actually a good thing.

Damn, next thing you know they'll be making moody existential films and eating more oatmeal.

Opening the visits to everyone "reduces stigma" and makes it more likely that parents who need the program the most will take advantage, said Kristin Bernhard, senior vice president for advocacy and policy at the Ounce of Prevention Fund.

"Things like child abuse are not restricted to families with low incomes," she added.

Not incidentally, making the program available to all will also get wider buy-in for the home visits and reduce the chance that some future administration will decide maternal mental health is a luxury that can be done away with. (Hey! This is why free public college for everyone, yes even the rare millionaire's kid going to a state school, is a good idea! Once something is considered any sort of "welfare," it's easier to label it wasteful and therefore expendable.)

The home visits are part of McCray's effort to expand mental health services for parents citywide, which includes mandatory depression screenings for all new mothers at public hospitals, and an effort she launched last year to get more mental health services to women jailed at Riker's Island, including longer and more frequent visits with children. Again, there she goes acting like some kind of socialist, as if family values had something to do with creating stronger parent-child bonds instead of just screaming about the gays. (And yeah, if you have free articles left this month, you should read that story too if you want to have a good hopey-changey cry.)

The personal is the political as fuck, and we love it. As of yet, New York City has not announced any plans to serve reindeer meat or Karjalanpiirakka in school lunches, but give 'em time.

[NYT / Smithsonian/ NYT / Photo by Ed Reed, NYC Mayor's office. Also, more baby pics in that Flickr stream!]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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