November 19, 2019

Mayor Lightfoot and the Chicago Department of Public Health Announce Nurse Home Visiting Service for Chicago Families with Newborns

Family Connects Chicago is provided at no cost; initially available at four Chicago hospitals

Elena Ivanova    elena.ivanova@cityofchicago.org

CHICAGO – Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) today announced the launch of Family Connects Chicago, a service designed to support the health and wellbeing of mothers, newborns and their families by providing home visits with registered nurses at no cost shortly after birth. The program, which is being piloted at four Chicago birthing hospitals, will also connect new mothers to community resources as needed.

“The wellbeing of our families is crucial to a healthy, thriving city. By offering home visits to new moms, we can improve maternal and infant health outcomes,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “Family Connects Chicago is a bold step toward ensuring that every mother and infant is well cared for and supported.”

Family Connects will be provided on a voluntary basis to mothers and families with newborns. Bedside visits are being offered while families are still in the hospital, and nurse home visits are being offered approximately three weeks after discharge. These visits include health screenings of mother and baby, education about newborn care, and an assessment of the family’s needs. Based on these evaluations, families can also be connected to additional resources and supports. Family Connects Chicago aims to ensure a seamless and well-supported transition for mothers, babies and families into the first weeks of the mother’s postpartum period and the baby’s first weeks of life.

“Family Connects Chicago is much more than a nurse home visiting service. It’s about how we, as a city, care for mothers, children, and families in our community,” said CDPH Acting Commissioner Allison Arwady, MD, MPH. “As the public health department, it is our role to ensure that there is a coordinated system of supports to improve the health and wellbeing of Chicagoans.”

CDPH will initially pilot Family Connects Chicago in partnership with four Chicago birthing hospitals – Norwegian American Hospital, Rush University Medical Center, Mount Sinai Hospital, and St. Bernard Hospital – to better understand how the model will work. It is estimated that next year, more than 4,000 families will be eligible for this service at the four pilot hospitals. The goal is to scale the service to all Chicago birthing hospitals over five years.

Family Connects is a rigorously evaluated, evidence-based model developed by Duke University’s Center for Child and Family Policy and the non-profit Center for Child and Family Health in Durham, NC. In addition to the nurse home visits for families with newborns, Family Connects promotes robust engagement of and alignment with community services for a coordinated system of supports and addresses gaps in resources for Chicago’s families.

“The arrival of a baby is a vulnerable time for families of all backgrounds. By offering the postpartum home visits to every family at Rush, we can improve health outcomes for our entire community,” said Angela Moss, PhD, MSN, APN-BC, RN, and Assistant Dean of Faculty Practice at the Rush College of Nursing.

The service is offered at no cost to families, and anyone with a newborn at the four pilot hospitals can participate, including foster and adoptive parents. Family Connects Chicago nurses provide a comprehensive spectrum of in-home support, guidance and connections to resources, including:

  • Help for baby - baby weight check, safe sleep information, infant feeding and fussiness, and help with bathing, diapering and swaddling;
  • Help for mom - mom’s health check, breastfeeding support, family planning advice, and postpartum depression screening;
  • Help for family - understanding childcare options, early literacy information, and community connections.

“The first few weeks of a baby’s life are filled with so many questions. Family Connects Chicago will provide much-needed support from a knowledgeable nurse to help our mothers take care of themselves and their babies,” said Evelyn Jones, Vice President of Nursing Services at St. Bernard Hospital.

To guide the implementation and evaluation of this pilot, a citywide Family Connects Chicago Advisory Council has been created, composed of representatives from health, early childhood, philanthropy, human services, research/policy, government and community.

“Each family with a newborn has unique needs – Family Connects Chicago helps families identify the resources in their community and access services that meet their individual needs,” said Susan Wucka, Director of Maternal Child and Surgical Services at Norwegian American Hospital.

"We're honored to join forces with the Chicago Department of Public Health and other partner organizations," said Michele Mazurek, Vice President, Patient Care Services and Chief Nursing Officer, Mount Sinai Hospital. "Family Connects Chicago is an innovative collaboration that brings together medical, public health, and community stakeholders to truly focus on the needs of mothers and babies in Chicago and help them thrive."

Family Connects Chicago is funded through a partnership with the Illinois Department of Public Health’s Maternal and Child Health Services Title V Block Grant program as well as other public and private funding from the City of Chicago, Rush University Medical Center, the Illinois Department of Human Services and private philanthropy. For more information, visit www.chicago.gov/family-connects.

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