Families who bring newborns into their lives face a full spectrum of emotions including joy and wonderment as well as uncertainty and stress. Families with newborns grapple with small and large “crises” as they navigate the fourth trimester. This is a time wrapped in exhaustion that easily heightens vulnerabilities. It is also a time of dreaming of what life can be like for the new baby and what it will mean to the family. Parents face this time wondering how they can prepare themselves for their future.
When community providers enter into this moment, they enter into a time of dramatic change, of emotional re-organization. They bring the opportunity to foster parental self-confidence through their sensitive exploration and support around new experiences.
A universal approach for working with families with newborns is transformative because it recognizes that all families with newborns would benefit from some level of support. Currently universal newborn supports don’t exist as a comprehensive, standardized service throughout Illinois Family Connects Illinois begins to bring new opportunities to Illinois families.
A universal approach adjusts how families are identified and engaged. Many evidence-based home visiting models identify and engage only those families who meet certain pre-defined risk criteria, while a universal approach is open to all families of newborn children. Additionally, it redefines outcomes from simply being anchored in child and family development and well-being to population level change, which is brought about by a public health approach. Community-wide linkages begin at the birthing hospital, are identified and supported during home visits, and reside in the fabric of the community’s systems of care.
This universal set of supports for all parents of newborns creates opportunities for all families to access resources, to support strong attachments, and better prepare their children for success. Referrals focus on supportive services for both the newborns and parents to promote well-being, reduce harm, and protect families.
Nick Wechsler’s work focuses on creating and supporting program approaches that promote secure parent-child relationships in home visiting and center based programs. He is the co-creator of the Community-Based Family Administered Neonatal Activities, has led the development of doula services in home visiting programs throughout Illinois, and most recently the development of Universal Newborn Services through Family Connects Illinois. Nick is the co-creator of the Ounce’s Infant Mental Health Learning Groups now in its 17th consecutive year of learning with home visitors and their supervisors.
Co-sponsored by the Center for Practice Excellence at JCFS-Chicago. CEUs are available. Early Intervention credits have been applied for.