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"We go right to the mother": New program helps mothers and their babies stay out of poverty

Pilot program pays some new moms $1,000 per month
Pilot program pays some new moms $1,000 per month 02:53

When 35-year-old Maureen Gardner was pregnant, she was on the brink of homelessness — until a new pilot program created a financial bridge to help her stay out of poverty.

For years, Gardner worked as a director of a nonprofit after-school program. Right before the pandemic hit, she left the job and went through her savings. Gardner soon found herself expecting her now 5-month-old son Garrett with no job.

But then, a social worker told her about a new program where she could get $500 to $1,000 a month for three years. The pilot program, known as The Bridge Project, aims to keep mothers and their babies out of poverty.

"We chose three years very intentionally first because those first 1,000 days of life are so, so critical for the baby's brain," founder Holly Fogle told CBS News. "We know that the baby's brain is doubling in size by the time they're three years old, it's at 80% of its adult capacity. So we're really laying the foundation for the rest of their life."

Maureen Gardner and her son. CBS News

The program is open to pregnant women and new mothers in certain low-income neighborhoods in New York City. By this summer, the program will have 600 mothers enrolled.

"Cash is a universal answer to individual problems," Fogle said. "We cut out all the bureaucracy; we go right to the mother, who knows more than anyone else in the whole world what that baby needs today."

Gardner said it's "really hard to think about" where she would be without the program. "I would have to maybe be in a shelter, you know, and find other ways to get assistance for myself and my baby," she said. 

Fogle said the average income for mothers participating is less than $15,000 a year. The money to help get these women back on their feet comes from the Monarch Foundation, which is fully funded by Fogle and her husband.

"Between our first and second phase we will spend at least $16 million," she said.

Bridge Project founder on importance of giving to fight child poverty

"We figured out how to get cash in mothers' hands," says Bridge Project founder Holly Fogle, whose pilot program aims to keep mothers and their babies out of poverty by giving them monthly stipends. She spoke to us at length about the importance of giving to fight child poverty.

Posted by CBS Evening News with Norah O'Donnell on Thursday, March 3, 2022

The Bridge Project will monitor its participants and hopes to be a model for similar programs nationwide.

"Fundamentally, our program is based on trust and the dignity of human beings," Fogle said. "And at the end of the day, as a mother, I know she's going to make the right decisions for her babies, and I trust that. And so my money is on her every day."

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