No Surprise, But We Must Support

On the Pulse

Volume 2, Issue 2

By James W. Horne, Jr.

President/CEO, United Way of Greater Union County

No Surprise, But We Must Support

Organizations Like Women’s Leadership Council Are The Best Advocates for Issues Facing Young Children


In a study, From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development, by Jack P. Shonkoff and Deborah Phillips, their analysis states, “All children are born wired for feelings and ready to learn.” The foundation for success for a child starts with a positive and nurturing environment. And with more mothers working today than ever before, quality childcare is essential to early childhood development.  

Seems basic but what about working women and their needs to support themselves and their children.  How can they guarantee that their children receive the proper level of nurturing to grow into a healthy and productive adult?  Women helping other women is truly a remarkable thing to see. I see this first hand in the Women’s Leadership Council.  For me, it is an honor to work with members of the Council, an ad-hoc extension of United Way of Greater Union County.  These women support our mission by inspiring, educating, encouraging and empowering women to effect change in our communities.  

Furthnermore, it is a natural assumption that women would help women with their children, but as we all know it takes a whole village.  Which means that the Council’s work is necessary as is the work of other organizations that advocate for mothers with young children and their needs.

For mothers who don’t receive prenatal care, their babies are three times more likely to have low birth weight and are five times more likely to die, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in comparison to mothers who have access to prenatal care. As advocates for women and children, the Council has focused its efforts on early childhood development.  They understand that early childhood development starts with pre-natal care for mothers and have steered its fundraising efforts to benefit the Nurse Family Partnership (NFP).  The NFP conducts outreach to recruit pregnant women so they may receive prenatal care.    


This outreach is vital for many low-income families, who tend to be Black and Latino, and may also have transportation issues.  Other barriers such as lack of healthcare insurance, language and citizenship status can impede access to prenatal care. By eliminating these barriers, it increases the mother’s chance of delivering a healthy baby. 

NFP serves approximately 130 first time mothers.  These licensed-trained nurses are also culturally competent, when it comes to fitting the specific needs of their clients.  By engaging the mom, early on, with a nurse, she receives healthcare and monitoring throughout her pregnancy during regularly scheduled visits.  The mother also receives child development coaching up until the child is two years old.   This helps mom develop healthy parenting skills that encourages positive childhood development.  This is the foundation for closing the learning gap between low-income and affluent children. 

Strong advocates also believe that nurturing must continue beyond neo-natal services.  Here in NJ, Union County provides early childhood services for close to 500 children.  These resources help low-income families’ access quality childcare, a necessity to build a foundation for the future of these children and our communities. 

However, the truth of the matter is clearly stated in the Perry Study.  For every “one dollar invested in high-quality early childhood education programs by policymakers results in return of seven dollars in preventative cost associated with incarceration, truancy, school drop-out and teen pregnancy.”  Working with groups like the Women’s Leadership Council and its literacy campaign, along with other women groups, have effective long-term benefits for pre-school aged children. 

Learning is a life-long process and the Council is making the pathway to success a tangible experience for children.  They have collected close to 400 new books through its partnership with Barnes & Noble bookstore that were delivered to the Roselle Day Care Center, PROCEED I Early Childhood Development Center in Elizabeth and King’s Daughter Day School in Plainfield. The Council’s focus on policy and advocacy remains supportive of programs such as Pre K-Our Way and the expansion of early childhood education through the Early Childhood Innovation Act (S-973), for three and four year olds.  This new piloted loan program between the public and private sectors is legislation we can all focus on, because it means we have a chance to start early, and work with children at a time when they are “wired” to learn healthy behaviors and good learning habits.

For more information about the Women's Leadership Council, send us an e-mail to (From Neurons to Neighborhoods) Perry Study