Easing into Parenthood: The Family Connects Greenville Initiative

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New parents, prepare yourself for a transformational support system! On this episode, Derek Lewis sits down with Jane Yates from the Family Connects Greenville program. Together, they share how this groundbreaking initiative is not only reshaping the newborn homecoming experience in Greenville County, but it’s also linking families with a wealth of community resources. Tune in as Jane details how this program provides a visiting nurse to new parents and even extends its support to offer things like childcare vouchers, community resources, and much more. Intrigued? There’s a lot more to discover about how Family Connects is lighting the way for new parents. To learn more, contribute, or if you’re an expectant or new parent in Greenville, visit familyconnectsgreenville.com.


Katy Smith: If you have ever been the parent of a newborn, you’ll recall the hundreds of questions you had when you brought your baby home from the hospital and were on your own. Family Connects Greenville is a new home visiting program that makes that homecoming experience easier for caregivers and babies.

Family Connects will soon be providing a nurse home visitor for all Greenville County newborns and their families. This delivers not just reassurance, but better outcomes for our community’s children. Today, Derek Lewis with Greenville First Steps interviews Jane Yates, the Maternal Child Health Program Manager for the Upstate Region of South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, who is also the Director of Family Connects Greenville.

Derek Lewis: Thanks to Jane for joining us today. We are just so thrilled about Family Connects Greenville coming to the Upstate. Could you just tell us a little bit about what Family Connects is?

Jane Yates: Family Connects is a nurse home visitor program that is currently offered through Greenville County First Steps and DHEC. The program here in Greenville is unique because it is a universal program. It’s offered to all moms that currently live in Greenville County and deliver at a PRISMA hospital in Greenville county.

Family Connects provides a nurse to visit the mom and family at three weeks postpartum to help connect them to resources in the community and to other resources that they may need to tap upon us.

Derek Lewis: Now Jane, you are part of the group that that looked at Family Connects where it’s been in North Carolina for, what, 20 years before it came to Greenville. To me, the incredible thing about Family Connects is you have a baby in the hospital. You get a visit from a family connects nurse or staff person while you’re in the hospital and then you get this, this home visit three weeks later if you want one.

When you think about like what you saw in North Carolina and what you’re expecting to see here, like what, what do you think is the benefit of a home visit for families?

Jane Yates: Having a baby is a life-changing event and no one can prepare you for it. Uh, you can take a class, you can hear family and friends tell you what it’s gonna be like, but there’s no way that you can be prepared when you have that first child.

It affects not only the mom but the entire family unit. No matter how well educated you think you’re on having a child at home, it, it’s a, it’s a new experience and just having someone come in there and reassure you that you’re doing a good job and giving you some education and teaching and having some resources available that they may have not known was available to them in the community.

And just having that nurse. People trust nurses. So having that nurse come into the home and be able to assess your baby, tell you what your baby weighs, see if your baby has gained weight. See if your baby’s feeding correctly. See if where your having your baby’s sleep is safe and appropriate for that infant.

And just, you know, any issues the family might have as well. We’re not there just for mom and just for baby. We wanna include the entire family. So there are sometimes siblings in the home that needs some guidance and education and teaching to the mom so that there’s resources that can be found for them as well.

So I just think that reassurance from a nurse coming out, seeing that family and offering that support and having the tools available that mom may not even realize she needs, but will benefit from it.

Derek Lewis: That’s so great that you talk about like the resources that families don’t even realize they need. Like I remember when we had our first child. William cried every day when he came home and it was, you know, several weeks before we were, did our first well visit at the pediatric clinic.

And I thought that it was just normal that babies would cry all day, every day. And it wasn’t until we got into the pediatrician’s office that he was like, “well, it’s probably cuz he is hungry.” And I just think like, what a benefit that would’ve been to have had a medical expert come into the home and say, “how are you doing? What are your concerns? How can I, how can I help you with that?” Because you are right, there’s, there is a lot of trust there between a medical provider and a nurse and, and this, this new family.

Jane Yates: Well, something as simple as that, as a baby crying all day, and you just think it’s normal for the baby to be crying. A nurse can come in and assess, you know, if the baby’s formula fed, show me how your prepping your formula. Uh, show me how much you’re giving that baby, and how often are you giving it to the baby.

Tell me how many times they’re going to the bathroom every day, because what goes in must come out. And that is a, a key factor and indicator is that baby getting enough to eat, especially if you’re breastfeeding a baby. You can’t measure out how much breast milk that baby’s getting, but you can tell by the number of times they’re having a dirty or wet diaper that that baby’s getting adequate nutrition.

So, that’s, that’s a perfect example of just new mom’s, dad’s not really understanding crying patterns and what those cries are signaling from the baby to you.

Derek Lewis: Yeah. So we know that these nurses are gonna be there to provide sort of medical expertise. But, you know, one of the things that really struck me about Family Connects are all of these other services and interventions and opportunities that families may not even know about that have really nothing to do with, with the child’s healthcare, right?

So access to books, or access to a car seat or cribs, or… Can you just talk a little bit about maybe some of the training and some of the services that, that these nurses might be able to make families more aware of that maybe no one… don’t really have anything to do with, you know, the mother’s blood pressure or the weight of the baby.

Jane Yates: Certainly. One of the main things that is important to connect families with is a support group. I mean, I, I think if mom just knows that there’s someone else out there going through the same issues, concerns, and, and experiencing the same feelings that just knowing there’s a support group out there that we can connect ’em with, or if they don’t have a car seat or if they’re worried their car seat’s not installed correctly, we can guide ’em to someone that can inspect that for them.

Going back to work. It’s not cheap for… to find daycare or any care at all. So certain families would’ve, would probably qualify for some ABC vouchers to be able to go back to work. They need a supplemental formula, they need diapers, they need baby items, we can connect them to that as well.

If their baby has a, a health issue, then we know specialists and community support groups that we can refer to for that as well. So, um, there’s a lot out there that’s not necessarily connected to the health and wellbeing of the, of just the infant or there’s things out there that is beneficial to the moms and parents to help them to become a better parent and understand their child better and how to rear that child in a positive aspect.

And the book issue is, is another big thing. There’s plenty of, um, source… resources out there that can offer a book when, and I would just be thinking, I’m gonna have to go buy these books. But there are resources out there that provide free books to these families as well.

So we have a extensive referral database that covers just about anything you could think of that we’ll be able to pull up and refer that parent to whatever they determine their needs is.

Derek Lewis: All right, so let’s talk about the database for a second because you know, one of the biggest challenges that the nonprofit sector has is they offer services to families but don’t know how to get those services in front of families. Right? So how does a, a transportation partner, or a clothing partner, or a partner that provides donated diapers or formula, like how did they get in front of you so that their services could be included in the database? Is is the best way to go to the website?

Jane Yates: The best ways to go to the website and our contact information is on there. And that would, that will, uh, directly get referred back to one of our Family Connects employees, and we can certainly get that information onto our referral database and if they have actual items to donate, we can arrange to have those retrieved as well.

Derek Lewis: So the website is familyconnectsgreenville.com.

Jane Yates: That’s correct.

Derek Lewis: So we’ve gone to the website and we know that’s how organizations can get connected to you.

But you know, one of the things I hear from, like our church young parenting group, is they always wanna find a way to help families with newborns. So if an, if an organization wants to do some sort of book drive or clothing drive or diaper drive, how, how can they help get those resources in front of these families?

Can they, can they donate those things directly to you guys?

Jane Yates: Yes, that would come directly to the Family Connects employees at the DHEC and uh, we would get that out to our families.

Derek Lewis: And so they can go to familyconnectsgreenville.com and they can find out there how to get connected with you guys and to make those donations directly to the Family Connects staff.

Jane Yates: That is correct.

Derek Lewis: And then the staff then kind of have this, basically this closet of materials. And as they do visits, as they identify their families with specific needs, they can help maybe make those materials available to those families directly?

Jane Yates: Yes, we, we have space available where we will house any donations, any articles we have received in based on categorized, based on need. And we, we will, it will be available to all the nurses who deliver to, uh, needy families. If we discover that need before the initial visit, we’ll take it with us on the initial visit.

If we go out on the initial visit and there is a need that is uh, discovered, we can go back for a second visit and deliver what they need.

Derek Lewis: Well, thank you so much for joining us today. We really appreciate it. We’re really excited about sharing Family Connects with the Greenville community and are just so thrilled that DHEC is gonna be a partner with us in this work.

Jane Yates: We’re very thrilled and um, it’s a pleasure to be here.

Catherine Puckett: Simple Civics: Greenville County is a project of Greater Good Greenville. Greater Good Greenville was catalyzed by the merger of the Nonprofit Alliance and the Greenville Partnership for Philanthropy. You can learn more on our website at greatergoodgreenville.org. This is a production of the Greenville Podcast Company.

Image via Blankita_ua on Canva.

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