Family Connects is a home visiting program offered to all parents of newborns in a community that improves child health outcomes population-wide.
Registered nurses visit the homes of the newborns in their communities, providing health checks for both the infant and the birth mother. Nurses are trained to effectively assess families’ needs and risks. Nurses then connect parents to a broad set of existing community services, including everything from mental health and substance abuse programs to quality day care. In higher-risk cases, nurses return for follow-up visits or recommend longer-term programs.
In this way, Family Connects is building a system of care for newborns and their families in their first weeks of life.
While resources to support new parents exist, many new parents don’t know when and how to access them. The first weeks and months of a baby’s life present an opportunity to support positive parenting behaviors and to intervene to prevent problems, such as postpartum depression and child maltreatment.
Postpartum depression affects 1 in 8 mothers in the U.S., with rates as high as 20% in some states and higher-risk subgroups. And child maltreatment is especially common in a child’s first year – the highest of any age group. According to a large study in Australia, child abuse and neglect have a dramatic impact on the well-being of very young children. Children who experienced some form of maltreatment by age 3 were 63% to 103% more likely to perform in the bottom 10% of the population on physical, social, emotional, and cognitive measures of kindergarten readiness.
A robust body of evidence demonstrates that Family Connects has a significant positive impact on outcomes that matter for kindergarten readiness.
A randomized control trial conducted in 2014 showed that Family Connects program participants experienced: a 44% lower rate of Child Protective Services investigations for suspected child abuse or neglect in children under age 2; a 30% reduction in maternal postpartum depression and anxiety; and a 13% increase in community connections.
A 2009 study showed that the program reduced emergency room visits and hospital overnight stays by 50% in the first year of life and led to significantly more positive parenting behaviors as well as the use of higher-quality childcare.
decrease in Child Protective Services investigations
decrease in maternal postpartum depression or anxiety
increase in community connections
Family Connects also has the potential for enormous scale. All families of newborns in a community are offered a Family Connects visit shortly after the baby’s birth, and nearly 75% of families accept this offer, leading to broad reach in a community. And the program is highly affordable – costing between $500 and $700 per birth. This has led private insurance, Medicaid, and state legislative dollars to cover many home visits.
“Establishing this program...will help Oregon cut down on costly, unnecessary emergency room visits for children under the age of 1. It’s estimated that for every dollar invested in the program, there will be $3.17 in savings. We have an opportunity to triple the return on our investment.”
Family Connects has doubled its size over the past three years to reach more than 30,000 families at 38 sites across 16 states. The organization plans to double its scale again by 2022, reaching more than 70,000 families per year across the U.S.