For all children, learning begins long before they ever enter a classroom. And many new mothers—whether they are first-time parents or are caring for multiple children—have questions and need support. At the Trust, we believe every mother—and family—should have access to the information and resources she needs to feel confident in caring for her baby and herself, as she becomes her child’s first and most important teacher.
Forsyth Connects is a universal home visiting program available to all mothers and babies in the county. It’s a grantee of Great Expectations—the Trust’s early education initiative in Forsyth County working to ensure that children reach developmentally-appropriate milestones in the first five years and enter school ready to learn. A Forsyth Connects nurse makes a home visit within the first six weeks of the baby’s life to assess the health of the baby, mother, and the rest of the household, working with parents to troubleshoot any issues they might have and provide access to resources they may not even know they need.
“It doesn’t really matter what your socio-economic status is, or what number baby this is,” says Monica Melvin, the Forsyth Connects Nurse Manager. “Everyone could still use some guidance.”
In this home visit, a nurse may help with breastfeeding; provide referrals to resources, such as a Pack-&-Play or a car seat; ensure the baby’s next doctor’s appointment is scheduled; answer questions from other family members; or connect the mother to a community group that can provide emotional support. After the visit, a nurse provides phone follow up or a second visit to ensure the care continues. With more than 100 community and agency partners, Forsyth Connects is able to connect families to services or resources to help address issues that might arise.
Sarah Overby, a nurse with Forsyth Connects, notes, “Our focus is on how we can help them as a family be more independent and have access to resources in the community. We spend a lot of time listening to mothers and families.”
Sarah recalls a visit with a family where the newborn was the youngest of five children, including a one-year old and a two-year old: “The mother was feeling a bit overwhelmed trying to care for and nurse her new baby and attend to the needs of her other young children. To help relieve her stress in a practical way, I was able to provide her with a Moby Wrap—a long piece of cloth that allows the mother to wear her baby on her chest while breastfeeding or doing other tasks—allowing her to have her hands free to tend to her other children, while also providing a good way to nurse and bond with her newborn.”
Simple interventions like this can make a huge difference in a mother’s ability to bond and care for her baby, as well as her ability to connect with and provide for all of her children.
Forsyth Connects has had a remarkable impact in Forsyth County since it was started less than a year and half ago. “I’m proud of how fast we were up and running, how many visits we’ve completed, and the reputation that we have been able to establish in the community,” Monica said.
In just 16 months, Forsyth Connects’ lean and dedicated team of nurses has made over 2,000 home visits, providing invaluable assistance and resources and helping to create healthier communities—one family at a time.
“Forsyth Connects seeded something that supports every new baby in the community, regardless of where they live and their financial circumstances,” says Marni Langbert Eisner, director of Great Expectations. “As this seed sprouts, it starts to strengthen the mother-child bond and, most importantly, strengthens the connections throughout our community to support families in the healthy development of their children.”