In a Sheboygan hospital, first-time parents welcome a daughter. Before leaving for home, they receive a visit from a Welcome Baby Resource Specialist, who offers community resources and child development information related to their needs as parents. At the time, the parents decline home visiting from a Family Resource Center of Sheboygan County Parent Educator, and head home with their newborn. When a Parent Educator calls them in a few weeks to follow up, the parents are thrilled to hear from them. Since leaving the hospital, they have questions about their baby’s development, breast-feeding, safe sleep, and a myriad of related topics. The family is provided with additional resources, and decide to participate in Parents as Teachers to receive regular home visits, as well as post-partum screenings for the mom and developmental screenings for their daughter. These parents are now connected to needed resources and support that they may not have been aware of otherwise, that will support them in their roles as new parents.
This is one example of the Welcome Baby program in action, which SFTA member Child Care Resource & Referral agency Family Connections, Inc. has been a part of since its inception last November.
“Family Connections has always provided resources to child care providers and parents in our community,” said Family Connections Welcome Baby Resource Specialist Karen Apitz. “Participating in Welcome Baby was the next step, so that we are there for parents in a new way.”
Welcome Baby came about as a program of the Sheboygan County Community Partnership for Children (SCCPC), which was created in January of 2016 through the leadership of United Way of Sheboygan County (UWSC), following community conversations about how to promote and strengthen existing early childhood supports for Sheboygan County parents. UWSC is the backbone of the initiative and continues to lead collaborative efforts with more than 15 community partners to implement the project, including Family Connections.
The basic function of Welcome Baby is to provide visits from Resource Specialists to new parents, and to parents with infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) to offer them resources and supports based on their needs. Aurora Memorial Medical Center and St. Nicholas Hospital have mothers checking in to give birth complete a brief screening to determine their needs, then fax the screening results over to Family Connections, Inc., who conducts an immediate Welcome Baby visit. A Resource Specialist or Parent Educator follows up with each family within a month of the visit. The initial goal of the program was to complete at least 200 Welcome Baby visits in their first year. As of early September 2017, over 300 visits were completed, exceeding the initial goal a few months before Welcome Baby’s 1-year anniversary.
“It is a really exciting time, seeing how this type of program can grow so quickly,” said Corrissa Frank, SCCPC Coordinator from United Way of Sheboygan County. “It has been amazing to see us all come together and to be able to develop this great initiative. Perhaps the most important innovative feature of the program is our commitment to letting the community lead.”
United Way of Sheboygan County works with participating Welcome Baby agencies such as Family Connections, Inc. to track data collected through Welcome Baby visits that will help determine future directions for this program, by identifying common needs and trends that arise from visits to be more responsive to parents. Future goals also include expanding to provide visits for all parents of newborns, and even prenatal services, to serve more families in the Sheboygan area. Additional funding resources are currently being explored to continue moving the Welcome Baby program forward.
Stay tuned to the SCCPC site for a fall 2017 video release featuring the Welcome Baby program!