Advocates gather outside of Rep. Jeff Jackson’s office after a meeting.

By: Melea Rose-Waters, MSW, Senior Policy Director, Family Connects International


Participants who attended the National Home Visiting Summit had a busy and productive day on Capitol Hill! From January 31 to February 2, 2024, our Nation’s Capital was filled with advocates for children and families as they attended the National Home Visiting Summit. During this part-advocacy and part-educational event, participants were given the opportunity to schedule meetings with their congressional delegation, also known as Hill visits. These meetings were organized by a state lead and guided by preparation provided by the Start Early Community of Practice on Advocacy and Policy and a strategy session the morning of the visits on January 31st. 

Family Connects International’s senior policy director, Melea Rose-Waters, organized meetings with members of Congress across different states and participated in visits with a number of advocates from home visiting models, early literacy groups, community-based organizations, and academia. We walked the halls of Congress and sat at tables together with members and staffers with a common goal: raising awareness for the need to support children and families.

Moving Upstream 

A holistic approach to child and family support begins upstream, and the United States is currently facing a maternal mortality public health crisis. The U.S. has the highest pregnancy-related death rate among developed nations and that rate rose a staggering 40% in 2021 compared to the previous year. The maternal mortality rate for Black women is nearly three times higher than the rate for white, non-Hispanic women. These stats beg the question: how is this happening in a country with one of the most advanced health care systems in the world? 

There isn’t one simple solution to prevent potential health complications postpartum, but there is certainly more we could be doing as a country today to demonstrate that the health and well-being of moms and babies is a priority. 

Family Connects: A Universal Solution to a Preventable Crisis 

Family Connects is an evidence-based program where a nurse visits families with newborns in the first few weeks postpartum. In the select communities where the service is available, it is offered universally to everyone and at no cost to the family. A visit is scheduled with the family before leaving the hospital and three weeks later, the nurse comes to the home to visit mom and baby. The visit is an extension of the medical care provided by their OBGYN and can bridge a gap between the family and an entire community system of care that is available – from childcare resources to breastfeeding support.  

Medical assessments aren’t the only areas that the nurses cover during visits. They carry with them a wealth of knowledge about the best care for moms and newborns, and they help connect families to the resources that are available to them in their communities. The program has been shown to reduce postpartum anxiety, increase the likelihood that mom attends the recommended six-week postpartum health check, and improve overall health and well-being for both mom and baby. 

In the US, infants typically visit their pediatricians several times in the first few weeks of life, yet moms are typically seen by their providers about six weeks postpartum, leaving a six-week span of zero care. For some moms, these visits are a matter of life and death.


A Call to Action for Policymakers and Providers 

The Washington Post featured an op-ed on August 18th, 2023 titled “Want to fix America’s maternal health crisis? Here’s where to start that highlighted data-driven policy recommendations to provide the best maternity care. These recommendations underscore themes that maternal health experts have been saying for decades: what we’re doing isn’t working.  

Providers need to pay more attention to the health and well-being of moms during the postpartum period, prioritize equity to address maternal mortality risks that are disproportionately impacting people of color, and look to what has worked well in other countries to improve maternal health outcomes. A call to action for both policymakers and the medical community, with a roadmap of strategies that can change outcomes and support families during a vulnerable – and sometimes scary – life transition into parenting a newborn. 

A Gold Standard of Postpartum Care 

Currently, two states are bringing Family Connects statewide, and there is a scattering of communities across the country that have also seen the value in nurse visits for new moms. A national crisis like the maternal mortality rate needs innovative, universal solutions. What we’re doing isn’t enough and it isn’t working. Moms and families deserve more. Imagine what is possible with a gold standard of postpartum care that includes a holistic approach that starts prenatally and continues well into the fourth trimester – the critical time postpartum that is most dangerous for new moms, with the highest risk of maternal death occurring during the first 42 days postpartum. Family Connects nurses are saving lives. 

Want to know how you can meet with your policymakers? Stay tuned for our next blog post for Community Partners on how to organize and execute effective meetings with policymakers.

Learn more about the policy priorities for Family Connects International, the home office of Family Connects located in Durham, NC, or connect directly with us at melea@familyconnects.orgWant to learn more about the Home Visiting Summit? Check out this blog post from Start Early on Four Takeaways from the National Home Visiting Summit. 

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