Forsyth Connects to Provide Home Visits to All County Newborns

Largest countywide implementation of nationally recognized model to improve health, link families to community services

The Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust and Novant Health announced today that they will partner to provide free in-home nurse visits to all mothers with newborn babies who are born and reside in Forsyth County.

During a baby shower-themed celebration held at Forsyth Technical Community College, leaders from both organizations described the partnership as a means to promote infant and maternal health while also providing support to the whole family. Forsyth Connects, based on a similar program operating in Durham, North Carolina, supports parents’ health and social needs after having a baby and connects them with community resources.

“This program will provide families with a link to a myriad of community resources if they need them,” said Kirsten Royster, vice president of Novant Health’s Maya Angelou Women’s Health and Wellness Center. “For example, if new moms are dealing with postpartum depression or don’t have access to a crib or are unsure about how they’ll make ends meet with a new baby, the Forsyth Family Connects nurse can link that mom to other agencies and resources that can help.”

The model for Forsyth Connects is a program developed and tested beginning in 2008 in Durham by the Duke Center for Child and Family Policy in collaboration with the Center for Child & Family Health and the Durham County Health Department.

Durham Connects bridges the gap between new parents and community resources, and the program has been recognized to substantially improve infant health, parenting and maternal mental health, while increasing support for breast-feeding and early identification of postpartum depression. Family Connects’ ability to connect with all families at the birth of a new child presents a tremendous opportunity to Forsyth County providers to come together to provide coordinated, comprehensive supports for children and their families from birth.

As part of the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust’s Great Expectations initiative focused on Forsyth County’s financially disadvantaged young children, the trust will fund $1.7 million for the program over three years. Novant Health will provide staffing of up to 10 full-time nurses. Nurses will visit the homes of Forsyth County mothers who gave birth two to three weeks earlier. Nurses will follow the Family Connects guidelines assisting and encouraging breast-feeding, reviewing infant health needs and assessing other family concerns. Nurses will also observe the health of the mother and recommend community resources that can be of assistance.

“Since the majority of babies born in the county take their first breaths at Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center, it seemed natural for us to support the family and ensure remarkable care continues at home,” said Jacque Daniels, Novant Health executive vice president and chief administrative officer. “It is exciting to work in partnership with the Family Connects program in Durham to continue their good work here in Forsyth County.”

“In considering this program we observed the success of many other community programs that offer in-home visits to new families, such as Nurse-Family Partnership, Welcome Baby and CC4C, and realized the need in the area was even greater than what was already being provided,” said Joe Crocker, director of the Poor and Needy Division of the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust. “Now we will be able to build on the good work these groups are already doing so that all new mothers in the community will receive the same benefits.”

Visits to mothers will begin this summer after nurses and staff have been hired and trained. The evidence-based program has been researched in Durham and shown impressive results including:

  • Families involved reported 16 percent more connections to community resources.
  • Mothers reported more positive parenting behaviors with their infants, such as hugging and reading.
  • Mothers were 28 percent less likely to report possible clinical anxiety.
  • Total infant emergency medical care was reduced by 35 percent.
  • The program also found that every dollar invested in Family Connects saves $3.02 in emergency health costs for the community.

“Through our Great Expectations work, the Trust is committed to ensuring children from under-resourced families are given the opportunity to be successful in school and life by the time they finish kindergarten,” said Crocker. “We know paving the way for that success begins even before a child is born. Family Connects will focus on the little one’s earliest days and ensure their parents and loved ones have what they need to be healthy and engaged in their children from the start.”

“No parent is successful alone and this program connects parents to services so they can better connect with their infant. The Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust and Novant Health are willing to commit to Family Connects because they see the benefit to their community,” said Kenneth A. Dodge, the director of the Duke Center for Child and Family Policy.

May 10, 2016