By Renata Hill, Moodfuel News
Postpartum nurse home visits connect parents with community resources to support infant mental health
No matter how much expectant parents prepare for the birth of a child, there are always questions, concerns and overwhelm that occur after baby arrives. If the family isn't supported, the developing mental health of the newborn may be disrupted leading to learning disabilities and social impairment with a high risk of persistence into adolescence and adulthood.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 16 percent of children under 6 years of age have significant mental health problems requiring clinical care early in life. Plus, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality cited mental health disorders as the costliest child health condition, even higher than asthma.
The organization Family Connects Colorado, a member of Family Connects International, is committed to strengthening bonds within families of newborns and promoting infant mental health and wellness through postpartum home visits by a registered nurse.
Nationally recognized child abuse prevention organization Illuminate Colorado oversees the program to maintain a consistent approach in program implementation. Illuminate Executive Director Jade Woodward said, "Our hope is that Family Connects becomes the standard of care for families in Colorado upon the arrival of a newborn, and that as a result of this care, families are connected with the support and resources they need to thrive, right from the start."
Illuminate works with hospitals to enroll expectant mothers immediately when they arrive in labor. After the newborn comes home, a nurse will visit one to three times over the first several weeks. "We want to provide a very light touch," said Angelica Fox, director of Family Connects at Illuminate. "If the family requires additional support after that, we can help them find other programs."
There is no cost nor qualifying criteria because Family Connects is very conscious of smashing the stigma surrounding the challenges every new baby presents to every mother and family. The program is also very inclusive. "Anyone with a newborn," states the website, is encouraged to participate, including foster, adoptive, immigrant and refugee families.
Participants receive information on community resources customized to their particular needs. Nurses speak English and Spanish with other languages supported soon.
Illuminate is striving for the goal of 70% enrollment of all expectant mothers at any given hospital. Currently, Illuminate has soft-launched the program at hospitals in Boulder and Eagle counties. Expansion to Jefferson and Denver counties will occur in Spring 2023. Illuminate hopes to activate Family Connects in every Colorado county depending on state and county funding.
Family Connects is an evidence-based model developed and piloted in Durham, NC through a partnership with Duke University’s Center for Child & Family Policy, the nonprofit Center for Child & Family Health and the Durham County Health Department. Early results are significant. Families who participated in the pilot experienced:
- 50 percent fewer emergency room visits and hospital stays for infants
- 28 percent decrease in anxiety reported by mothers
- Improved parenting behaviors
- Improved home environments and home safety
- Increased community connections.
For more information, reach out to Family Connects Colorado at (303) 351-2712 or email@example.com.