Bright Spots showcase the work that Grade-Level Reading communities are doing to make progress on school readiness, school attendance and summer learning by 2016.  Continue reading below or Download a PDF version.

What is the link between maternal depression and school readiness?

  • Pregnant women who are clinically depressed are more likely to deliver prematurely, to deliver a low birthweight baby and to not breastfeed.
  • New mothers who are clinically depressed often struggle to nurture their children, limiting development during the critical early years.
  •  When these children reach school-age, they are more likely to have reading, language and writing delays, as well as attention problems and behavioral issues.

To avoid this scenario — which particularly affects first-time, at-risk mothers and children served by home visiting programs — researchers at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center developed a program in 2002 to identify and treat mothers with the most serious depression in its home visiting effort, Every Child Succeeds.

Known as Moving Beyond Depression, the program is an evidence-based treatment program specifically for mothers in home visiting programs and has a proven record of success including a clinical trial that reported results in 2013, say hospital researchers.

During the past two years, it also has become a component of home visiting programs in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Kansas and Kentucky. Training, tools and support to run Moving Beyond Depression were made available in 2011, for a fee, by Every Child Succeeds and the hospital, which belongs to Cincinnati’s Grade-Level Reading Coalition.

“It’s being picked up because it works with home visiting,” says Judith Van Ginkel, president of Every Child Succeeds, which serves families from pregnancy to a child’s third birthday. She notes that programs increasingly require maternal depression screening and that a recent study shows untreated maternal depression can hamper home visiting’s effectiveness.

"It's one thing to screen. But then try and find a service that can provide what these mothers need,” adds Van Ginkel, also a pediatrics professor.

Maternal depression affects up to 45 percent of pregnant, postpartum and parenting mothers in home visiting, according to researchers at Every Child Succeeds, a multi-faceted program that has served over 19,000 families in Southwestern Ohio and Northern Kentucky since 1999.

Up to 33 percent suffer from Major Depressive Disorder, the most serious form — which is Moving Beyond Depression’s focus. The program teaches home visitors how to identify major depression and pairs pregnant or expecting mothers with a licensed master’s-level mental health therapist who provides 15 weekly sessions of In-Home Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Researchers found benefits for mothers who completed treatment. The majority no longer had major depression symptoms. Recovered mothers reported coping better with parental stress, having more nurturing and stimulating interactions with their children, and seeing improvements in their children’s social and emotional health.

This has contributed to the effectiveness of Every Child Succeeds’ two-generational approach, which works to strengthen both mother and child. “We know that 99 percent of our parents are responsive to their child’s learning and emotional needs. And 93 percent of the interactions with the child are positive and accepting,” says Van Ginkel.

For more information, contact Judith Van Ginkel at 513-636-2830

Photos: Bree Photography

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