By Joy Griffith

As Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the State Legislature consider how to invest in New York State’s future, the best returns clearly will come from New York’s greatest resource – its children.

Every day we read about children who are abused, neglected, homeless, living in poverty and failing in school and in life.

The number of children living in poverty is growing. Teen parents who drop out of school to raise children are more likely to live in poverty and be unemployed. It’s easy to get discouraged – but there is cause for hope.

Two Buffalo programs that work to break the cycle of poverty, the Young Parents Program of Catholic Charities of Buffalo (supported by the Maternity and Early Childhood Foundation) and the Buffalo Home Visiting Program (a program of Healthy Families New York) provide low-income, young pregnant women and parents with the supports they need to raise healthy children.

They ensure young moms and their babies are nurtured throughout pregnancy and beyond. They provide education on nutrition, early prenatal care, baby safety and positive parenting. They empower and encourage young mothers to get an education, and achieve their goals for a better life for themselves and their children.

As one young mom said, “I was encouraged to be a strong, independent woman and to make healthy choices.” These programs provide positive support at a critical time: the birth of a baby and the first years of the child’s life.

These programs are the best kind of investment: a small amount of funding that results in long-term benefits for children and parents, safeguarding against child abuse and poor outcomes now and in the future.

New York is facing some very serious challenges, and its future depends on strong, independent families and citizens.

Every child deserves a chance to grow in a safe, nurturing home and have the opportunity to reach his or her full potential.

We hope that New York’s leaders envision a bright future for all New Yorkers by investing in programs like the Maternity and Early Childhood Foundation and Healthy Families New York.

Joy Griffith is executive director of the Maternity and Early Childhood Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that is supported through the New York State budget and that promotes healthy birth outcomes and positive parenting.