Image of parent holding her baby while talking to a nurse

UChicago Medicine’s Family Connects program provides in-home nursing support to help new parents navigate the critical first months after their newborn’s birth.

Through this program, Chicago families receive a visit from a registered nurse about three weeks after their newborn's birth. This visit offers benefits for newborns and parents, as well as other family members and caregivers.

What is the Family Connects Program?

The free program is available to anyone who delivers at the University of Chicago or a participating birthing center, and who lives in the city of Chicago with a 606 zip code.

Participating Chicago families receive visits from a Family Connects nurse who can:

  • Address their questions and concerns.
  • Provide education and support about newborn care.
  • Schedule follow-up medical care for both the baby and the birthing parent.
  • Connect the family with any specific resources they might need.

While new parents routinely receive infant care education before they leave the hospital, many exhausted, overwhelmed families don’t retain the information. The at-home nurse reinforces the information and answers questions about topics such as soothing the baby, feeding, bathing, and other care.

The nurses also check in with the birthing parent about her own health, including monitoring blood pressure and pain.

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Support for the Whole Family

Beyond medical concerns, Family Connects also works with parents to understand external issues affecting their family’s wellbeing. The nurse may provide resources such as:

  • A referral to mental health services for a parent who is struggling with depression and anxiety in the postnatal period.
  • Help finding a GED program to further a parent’s education.
  • Childcare resources for a parent who needs to return to work.

Who is the Family Connects Program for?

When the City of Chicago launched a new program in 2020 to send in-home nurse visits to support families with newborns, UChicago Medicine’s main role was to provide referrals. The hospital provided Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) with a list of patients who had given birth and CDPH staff members contacted them after they returned home.

But enrollment was low — of the patients contacted, only 40% signed up.

That’s when our team stepped up to take a more active role in the Family Connects program assisted by grant funding from UChicago Medicine. The goal was to increase participation by starting the conversation in the hospital about home support.

Organizers hope that new parents will be more open to receiving support if the offer comes from a familiar, trusted nurse.

“The goal of the program is to support birthing families so that they can make a smooth transition to caring for their newborns,” said Janae Rhodes, RN, Nurse Supervisor for Family Connects. “But the nurses also help with continuity of care by assessing and monitoring the infant’s health, which decreases hospitalizations, readmissions, and emergency room visits.”

Family Connects is modeled on an evidence-based program developed by Duke University. Two randomized controlled trials and a field study conducted in North Carolina found multiple medical benefits to in-home nursing support for new parents. After receiving home visits by nurses, primary caregivers of infants were 30% less likely to have clinical depression or anxiety, they were more likely to have a six-week postpartum health check, child maltreatment investigations were reduced by 44%, and infant emergency room visits and hospital admissions were reduced by 35%.

There were economic benefits also. In a city that averages 3,200 births per year, $2.2 million spent in nurse home visits translates to health care cost savings of $7 million in the first two years of a child’s life.

“Parents are able to better bound with their babies when they have the tools and the support they need to care for their infants,” said Rhodes.

UChicago Medicine staff are currently tracking maternal and infant health outcomes of Family Connects participants. “The goal is to make in-home nursing visits standard of care for parents of newborns,” said Rhodes.

How to Enroll

Email us at:

familyconnects@uchicagomedicine.org.

Or call:

Monique Rudolph

773-834-2641

 

Video: Free In-Home Nurse Visits For New Parents
CDPH Family Connects Program

WGN speaks with our team about Family Connects Chicago