Press Release: Oregon Launches Family Connects, A Universally Offered Home Visiting Program To Support Health Of Newborns, Families

Families in eight Oregon communities will be among the first in the state to have the option of receiving nurse home visits after the birth of a child.

These early-adopter communities are part of the Oregon Health Authority’s debut of a national model, Family Connects, under which the state’s new universally offered nurse home visiting initiative will be rolled out. Family Connects is a voluntary, evidence-based model that supports children and families at a critical time: a child’s birth.

The state’s program, to be called Family Connects Oregon, identifies what families want from local resources, and then provides an individualized pathway into a community system of care, the array of services that are coordinated to work for families. This system includes referrals to other, more established home visiting programs in the community that are eligibility-based rather than universally offered to all, as the comprehensive Family Connects program will be.

Health and social supports available to nurse home visiting users around the state include access to obstetricians and primary care providers, pediatricians and family practice physicians, as well as mental health services, housing agencies and lactation support organizations.

Services are intended to improve outcomes in one or more of the following areas: child health; child development and school readiness; family economic self-sufficiency; maternal health; positive parenting; reducing child mistreatment; reducing juvenile delinquency; reducing family violence; and reducing crime.

The Oregon Legislature passed Senate Bill 526 during the 2019 session, directing OHA to design, implement and maintain a voluntary statewide program to provide universal nurse home visiting services to all families with newborns living in the state. Family Connects meets criteria established by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for an evidence-based early childhood home visiting service delivery model. Services will be offered to families caring for newborns up to age 6 months, including foster and adoptive newborns, in the families’ homes by state-licensed registered nurses.

“Creating a lifetime of physical and mental well-being and healthy relationships relies upon a safe and healthy environment provided during early childhood,” said Lillian Shirley, director of the OHA Public Health Division. “That’s the goal of Family Connects Oregon: Give children and their families a jump-start at health during the most important period of their lives.”

Family Connects Oregon does not replace any home visiting programs that are already operating throughout the state. Instead, the program enhances Oregon’s current home visiting programs and will contribute to aligning a home visiting service system that connects all families with services and supports of their choice.

Under the Family Connects Oregon model, every new Oregon parent of a newborn will be contacted by a health care provider shortly after birth, ideally face to face, to schedule a home visit. If families choose to accept this service, they then receive one to three visits by a registered nurse in their homes to help them get off to a good start and get connected to services they want.

A group of single- and multi-county communities led by local public health and/or Early Learning Hubs has been selected to participate in an early adoption phase of Family Connects Oregon. This group represents a diverse mix of geography, implementation approach, strengths and opportunities across Oregon.

The following agencies and communities are designated as the lead agency for planning and implementation:

  • Clatsop County Department of Public Health.
  • Eastern Oregon Early Learning Hub, a consortium covering three counties — Baker, Malheur and Wallowa — with members representing health, K-12 education, social services, early learning programs and businesses.
  • The Early Learning Hub of Central Oregon, a partnership between Crook, Deschutes and Jefferson counties’ public health departments, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Health & Human Services, and regional early care and education stakeholders.
  • Four Rivers Early Learning Hub, including Gilliam, Hood River, Sherman, Wasco and Wheeler counties.
  • Lane County Health and Human Services Department, Public Health Division.
  • The Early Learning Hub of Linn, Benton & Lincoln Counties.
  • Marion & Polk Early Learning Hub, including Marion County Public Health, Polk County Public Health, Family Building Blocks/Healthy Families, Lancaster Family Medical, and Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde.
  • Washington County Public Health Maternal Child & Reproductive Health.

These early adopters will provide lessons learned and best practices for subsequent cohorts as the program rolls out statewide.

“We want Oregon to be the best place in the country to have and raise a child,” said Cate Wilcox, manager of the Maternal and Child Health Section at the OHA Public Health Division.

For more information, visit healthoregon.org/homevisiting.

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