Program helps parents of newborns

Family Connects Chicago
Family Connects Chicago

 Program helps parents of newborns

By Tia Carol Jones

A Chicago Department of Public Health program provides free, in-home nurse visits to parents with newborns. Family Connects Chicago was launched in 2020 and is available to families in Chicago who deliver babies at eight hospitals throughout the city.


The goal of the program is to provide support to families within the first few weeks after the baby is born. The program comes from research done that showed families need educational resources during the first few weeks after a new birth. The initial goal of the study was to reduce child mistreatment, with the hope that nurse visits would result in more positive behavior in parents, including more positive behaviors and bonding with the newborns. The outcome was that there were less unexpected emergency room visits and hospitalization, as well as less anxiety for the parents.


With Family Connects Chicago, the parents schedule the visit two to three weeks after delivering the baby. Family Connects Chicago has completed 6,000 visits since it was launched three years ago. Participating hospitals include Humboldt Park Health, Mt. Sinai Hospital, Roseland Community Hospital, Rush University Medical Center, St. Anthony Hospital, Swedish Hospital, UChicago Medicine and Stroger Cook County Hospital.


“CDPH’s goal is to have this program in all the birthing centers in the city of Chicago,” said Janae Rhodes, BSN, RN, who is the Nurse Supervisor at the University of Chicago Medicine’s Family Connects program.


With the pilot program, CDPH decided to involve staff nurses in the visits to the parents. That familiarity has resulted in an increase in the number of parents who have decided to participate in the program and the number of home visits has increased. The parents feel comfortable because they know the nurses doing the visits are coming from the hospitals where they gave birth.


Birthing parents are offered one visit, but if they deem the patients needs to be seen again, the nurses will be referred to case workers for long-term case management.


“That’s the good thing about Family Connects, not only do we handle the medicine part of patient care, we make sure we connect them with the community resources they might need, including parenting classes and breastfeeding support,” Rhodes said.


Another component of the program is nurse visits for adoptive and foster parents, and bereaved parents who have lost a baby. Rhodes said sometimes when a parent loses a baby, they don’t know what to do next. That parent also need help and support, they might have postpartum needs and have questions they need answered. The program educates these parents and handles them with a focus on mental health and explaining what is happening to their bodies. Rhodes described it as the care given to parents who experience perinatal lose as tender care.


Rhodes said parents who have participated in the program have been grateful for the education and resources they have received. They have supported parents through breastfeeding and sicknesses, as well as providing information about support groups. Rhodes said the program has been able to save children’s lives.


“All these little steps are major when it comes to saving lives,” she said.


Rhodes wants parents to be comfortable and to let the nurses come into their homes. The program also has a Spanish language component for parents who speak Spanish.


For more information about Family Connects Chicago, visit https://tinyurl.com/3ktf9r25.

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