Nurse-Family Partnership ready to help expectant moms
Project Self-Sufficiency runs program in Sussex County

Ellen and Sean Mohrhoff appreciate the help they've received from the Nurse-Family Partnership. Ellen, at left, with the Mohrhoffs' daughter Samantha and Nurse Debi Zingone. Photo courtesy of Project Self-Sufficiency

By Laurie Gordon
NEWTON — Babies don't come with instructions, and the prospect of having your first child can be both overwhelming and a little scary. That's where Nurse-Family Partnership comes in. This program exists all over the US and has proven that grassroots efforts can greatly improve children's health by educating expectant mothers. The program's success is based on thinking nationally and acting locally. Here in Sussex County, Project Self-Sufficiency has been operating the program for several years and has about 20 openings for those in need.
Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) is unique as it's beginnings were based on a series of clinical trials. In the 1970s, a child development expert, Dr. David Olds, began sending nurses into the homes of impecunious mothers in Elmira, N.Y., and later in Denver, Colorado and Memphis, Tennessee. The nurses taught mothers not to fall asleep on the couch with their infants, not to give them Coca-Cola, to pick them up when they cried and to praise them when they behaved. The outcomes were compared with those from a similar group of women who did not get the help.
These first programs were an important catalyst that's spread nationwide.
“I can't tell you how important it is to have a nurse actually go to a soon-to-be mother's home and give her such valuable advice and tools to help her with her baby,” said Deborah Berry-Toon, Project Self-Sufficiency's Executive Director. “The program helps mothers succeed so that their child can succeed.”
She added, “The idea of giving birth and raising a child for the first time especially when there are financial issues involved an be staggering. By pairing a licensed nurse with an expectant mother and having them visit from pre-birth stages through age two can greatly assist the mother with everything from pre-natal care to handling behavioral issues and everything in between.”
Through this program, the visiting nurse does such things as nudge the mothers to give up smoking and drinking, give them tips on child development, and answer questions about their own health or that of their children. In short, they are a shoulder to lean on during a time of the new and the unknown.
One of Project Self-Sufficiency's Nurse Home Visitors with the Nurse-Family Partnership program is Jennifer Mondrone. A captain in the United States Army Reserve, Mondrone has worked in the emergency room and in the field of ground and air Critical Care Transportation for most of her career.
She recently made the switch to home visitation with Project Self-Sufficiency and said, “Working with the Nurse Family Partnership has been quote a career change for me, but being a Nurse Home Visitor is one of the most rewarding jobs I have ever had.”
Sandra Ooms is a Nursing Supervisor with the program. Ooms has worked in acute care, rehabilitation, case management, nursing education, nursing informatics, home care and adult day care.
"Being a member of the Nurse-Family Partnership team allows me the opportunity to bring positive changes to members of my own community.” Ooms said.
The partnership with Project Self-Sufficiency started in February of 2013 and is one of three programs along with Healthy Families and Parents as Teachers that provide home visitations to young mothers in northwest New Jersey.
Project Self-Sufficiency is a mosaic of many different stories,” Berry-Toon said.
The Nurse-Family Partnership is one of the pieces that adds to that mosaic and makes life beautiful again for so many people in the area, she said.
Pregnant women in Sussex, Warren and Hunterdon counties can receive visits from a personal nurse like Jennifer in their own home. To register for the Nurse-Family Partnership program offered by Project Self-Sufficiency, call 973-940-3500 or visit You can also find the program on Facebook at: