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Davis giving bright beginnings

A little care goes a long way in the first years of a baby’s life, so it’s good news for mothers and babies in Hale County that that little bit of care is on its way.

Congressman Artur Davis (R-AL) was in Greensboro Wednesday to present the HERO Family Resource Center with an appropriations check for $50,000 to re-start the Bright Beginnings Home Visitation Program. Bright Beginnings works with Hale County’s teenage mothers, pregnant teens, and their families to improve the quality of life for both mother and child.

“This program recognizes that all of our young women can succeed if we nurture them in the right way,” said Rep. Davis. “This funding will go a long way towards providing mothers with the skills they need to raise healthy, happy children.”

Exactly how far those funds will go was discussed at length by HERO (Hale Empowerment and Revitalization Organization) founder Judge William “Sonny” Ryan during the check presentation. According to Ryan, before Bright Beginnings first started several years ago, Hale County ranked dead last amongst all 67 Alabama counties in infant mortality rate. After the program began, however, Hale skyrocketed up those rankings, eventually boasting the third-lowest rate in the state.

Despite that success, funding was rescinded and Hale’s mortality rate dropped back to ninth, and then to 46th.

In addition, a 30 percent decrease in Hale County’s unmarried pregnant teenagers while Bright Beginnings was operating was followed by a 30 percent increase after its cancellation.

With numbers like those, it’s little surprise HERO Family Resource Center Eva Bryant-Greene is ecstatic the program will have a chance to return to Hale County.

“We are exceptionally thankful,” she said, “that the Congressman considers our project worthy of such an award.”

The timing of Davis’s visit could scarcely be better, with HERO announcing only days ago that its Community Career Resource Center would close its doors and lay off its six full-time employees in the wake of state budget cuts. But thanks to Davis’s work with the 2004 Omnibus Appropriations Act, Bright Beginnings will be fully funded through at least March 2006.

According to a HERO press release, the Bright Beginnings Home Visitation Program “will provide a holistic approach with a focus on prevention and improve the quality of life regarding health, vocational career, education, and general social welfare for teenage mothers and their families.”

Much of Bright Beginnings’ previous success can be attributed to its model of in-home education. Being able to address issues in an immediate, face-to-face setting has proven critical in facing the many challenges confronting teenage mothers and their children.

“Because children born to teenage mothers tend to have lower birth weights and experience higher rates of premature delivery and infant mortality, intervention and education is needed in this area,” states the HERO press release. “This targeted population is also at significant risk for repeat pregnancies. Other risk factors include school problems (dropping out), behavior problems, and poverty at both the family and community level.”

In its previous incarnation, Bright Beginnings proved effective at keeping its members in school.

Of the 90 initial Bright Beginnings participants, only five either dropped out or became pregnant again before receiving their high school diploma.

“The statistics and data from the implementation of this program,” reads a public statement from HERO member Ann Bailey, “seem clear and decisive as to the value it provided to Hale County and the lives of at least 90 families.”