Family Connects is a universal approach to supporting newborns and their families. The program provides between one and three nurse home visits to every family with a newborn beginning at about three weeks of age, regardless of income or demographic risk. Using a tested screening tool, the nurse measures newborn and maternal health and assesses strengths and needs to link the family to community resources.
Family Connects is a postnatal nurse home visiting program that consists of one to three visits beginning at about three weeks of age. The nurse screens for infant health as well as parenting behaviors, and provides the family with linkages to community resources.
As stated on their website, the goals of Family Connects are to:
- Connect with every mother - along with the father and other family members - in their home after the birth of a newborn. The nurse home visits are designed to share in the joy of a new baby, assess unique family risks, and respond to immediate needs for support and guidance.
- Offer supportive guidance to families in several factors, responding specifically to questions about newborn care.
- Link families to community services based on their individual needs and preferences.
- Help new parents connect with their infant, providing them with the confidence and support needed to sustain infant and parent health, child development and overall family well-being.
All visits are conducted by registered nurses trained in implementing the program. This training takes between 12 and 15 months during which Family Connects staff work with the interested health department.
Family Connects emphasizes delivering the program universally rather than targeting births in high-need environments. Universal programs are not associated with social stigma that can hamper the effectiveness of more targeted programs. Additionally, the Durham Connects program found 94 percent of parents need support in at least one area following the birth of a new child.
See the Family Connects website for more information about this program.
To estimate the impact of a program or policy, we use systematic literature reviews to determine causal pathways and effect sizes. Well-researched interventions that have robust, high-quality evaluations allow us to model the impact of an intervention with greater certainty. However, sometimes interventions have limited evidence and not all of the outcomes that are likely to be associated with the intervention have been studied. In those cases, we can only model what is available in the evidence base. We urge future research to take the following gaps into consideration.
Emergency Department Use - The original studies did not find a significant effect on Emergency Department utilization for infants following birth. With a demonstrable impact on this measure, the model could include this as a stream of financial savings as well.
Hospital Overnights - The original analyses looked at the change in number of nights infants spent in the hospital as a result of this intervention. Future studies could clarify what type of services were provided in order to obtain a more accurate measure of the costs saved, such as utilization of the NICU.
Maternal Employment - Our inclusion of maternal employment in the model is as an indirect benefit via reduced postpartum depression. However, because less than one-fifth of the maternal population experiences postpartum depression, our model may underestimate employment affects that are occurring in the other 80%+ of the population.
Longer Term Outcomes for the Child - The current published studies examine families for up to two years after implementation fo the intervention. Longitudinal tracking of participants could provide very useful information regarding early childhood education and other impacts that could be fed into the model to estimate savings occuring from a healthier child population.