Family Connects is an evidence-based free home visitation program, rigorously evaluated and implemented in many cities throughout the United State. In 2019 the Welcome Every Baby program, under the umbrella of the Santa Barbara County Education Office, brought the Family Connects model to Santa Barbara County and created the Welcome Every Baby Family Connects (WEB FC) nurse home visitation program. WEB FC visits approximately 700 newborns and their families a year.
Why it works
Through Family Connects, all families in a community have the opportunity for a trained, registered nurse to visit them at home. 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. Helping parents connect with their infants helps them for life and community-wide eligibility is the only route to population change.
The Family Connects Internations model was developed in Durham, North Carolina based on community need. In 2001, the Duke Endowment approached Kenneth Dodge, the founding director, of the Duke Center for Child and Family Policy and challenged him and his team to improve child outcomes in Durham and to reduce childhood maltreatment and neglect. From that charge, the Durham Connects model was developed and it was piloted in 2008 with the goal of creating a replicable and sustainable model to be used in other communities.
The Durham Connects program was studied in two rigorous randomized controlled trials, the results of which have been published in highly regarded journals including Pediatrics and the American Journal of Public Health. The evidence was clear, a universal nurse-home visiting program has significant impact on several outcomes.
Researchers found that by the time a baby was six months old, families had:
- Greater community connections
- Better utilization of higher quality child care
- Higher-quality parenting behaviors
- Enhanced home environments
- Improved mother mental health
- Reduced emergency medical care for infants
Return on Investment
Family Connects offers communities the opportunity to maximize investment in population health and prevention. Based on the findings, researchers estimate that for cities of a similar size as Durhan averaging about 3,187 births a year, an annual investment of $2.2 million in nurse home visiting would result in a community health care cost savings of about $7 million in the first two years of a child’s life.