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Community-Wide Home Visiting Programs

This article was originally published in the Racine Journal Times

The first years of a child’s life are key to healthy growth and development.  Historically, public health played an important role in the early life of a child through nursing home visits that focused on preventive care and family education.  However, funding for this universal approach slowly eroded over time.  More recently, the federal government as well as Wisconsin began supporting long-term, intensive home visiting programs, including one in Racine County called Healthy Families America (HFA).  HFA is successful but can serve only a limited number of families.  To be able to serve the entire community, United Way of Racine County and Racine County Human Services Department chose to fund a community-wide nurse home visiting program for families with newborns called Family Connects Racine County (FCRC). Now all residents can receive FCRC home visits and additionally some families can also receive long-term HFA home visits as needed, with services provided by Central Racine County Health Department (CRCHD).  

FCRC is a community-wide nurse home visiting program. Evidence-based program services are for all parents of newborns in Racine County and visits are tailored to meet each family’s needs. Nurses provide between one and three home visits to families with a newborn beginning at about three weeks of age, regardless of income or demographics. Having a new baby affects many areas of a family’s life. FCRC nurses are trained to answer all kinds of questions and are knowledgeable about the wealth of resources in the community. Nurse home visitors offer supportive guidance, respond to family questions about newborn care, and help bridge the gap between parent needs and community resources. FCRC supports parents by bringing health providers, community resources and families together. Participation is voluntary and at no charge, and open to all Racine County families who have just given birth.  

Families who want to be part of long-term home visiting services may receive HFA home visits.  In this evidence-based program, expectant and new parents receive ongoing home visits, prenatally up through age 3 of the child.  HFA home visitors work with families to answer questions about their child’s health and development, set meaningful goals, and receive education and resource referrals, all while meeting within the familiarity and convenience of the family’s own home. Open to all Racine County residents, HFA is a voluntary service offered at no charge.  Long-term home visiting is supported by State of Wisconsin and federal Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) home visiting dollars.  

Research shows that most new parents need additional information, guidance and/or support at the time of the birth of their child.  In addition to medical care, home visits have been shown to be an important vehicle to support the health and well being of families at this critical time.  With the engagement and vision of residents, healthcare providers, community leaders, local agencies, and funders, both FCRC and HFA home visiting programs can successfully improve population health and reduce health disparities by serving all new families and providing some families additional support. For more information, call CRCHD at 262-898-4460. For more information on the Week of the Young Child Celebration this Saturday, go to UnitedWayRacine.org/WOYC.

Margaret Gesner - Health Officer, Central Racine County Health Department