PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) has awarded more than $2 million in new funding to eight community-based agencies to provide evidence-based home visiting services for pregnant women and families with young children in Rhode Island. Through the federal Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program, these funds will provide long-term Healthy Families America (HFA) support services to families in Coventry, Cranston, East Providence, and Westerly, and expand current services in Central Falls, Newport, Pawtucket, Providence, West Warwick, and Woonsocket. The funding will serve approximately 400 additional families.
"Pregnancy and the earliest years of life have a huge impact on how a child's brain gets built," said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. "Home visiting programs like Healthy Families America support parents so they can give their children every possible advantage as they develop and grow. In this way, the programs benefit not only families, but also Rhode Island as a whole, as kids with strong foundations become part of solid communities and contribute to society."
Healthy Families enrolls pregnant women and families with infants. Trained specialists, called Family Support Workers, continue to work with a family until the child is three years old. They can help expectant mothers and families access community resources and supports, such as WIC or child care services, and plan for education and jobs. They offer encouragement and emotional support for parents to grow more self-sufficient and confident in their roles as parents, and they help parents understand and stimulate their children's development, including age-appropriate milestones. Family Support Workers can also help improve family health by connecting families to healthcare services and helping families create a safe home environment.
To date, Healthy Families has offered a wide range of benefits to hundreds of families in Rhode Island. As one family explained, "If this program didn't exist, I wouldn't have as much insight as to what I'm supposed to be doing at certain stages in [my baby's] life I'd probably be a lot more nervous when she cries." Another participant commented that through the program, "I just might be able to encourage [my baby's] growth so she becomes the best little girl that she can be."
Community-based agencies awarded funding: Blackstone Valley Community Action Program: Central Falls, 25 additional families; Pawtucket, 25 additional families Community Care Alliance: Woonsocket, 25 additional families Comprehensive Community Action Program: Coventry, 10 new families; Cranston, 50 new families; West Warwick, 13 additional families East Bay Community Action Program: East Providence, 25 new families; Newport, 12 additional families Family Service of Rhode Island: Providence, 50 additional families Meeting Street: Providence, 115 additional families The Providence Center: Pawtucket, 25 additional families VNS Home Health Services: Westerly, 25 new families
Healthy Families is part of a comprehensive, statewide system of support for pregnant woman and families with young children that includes Nurse-Family Partnership, Parents as Teachers, First Connections, Youth Success, and Early Intervention. These programs rely on referrals from healthcare providers, social service providers, and schools to reach Rhode Islanders who could benefit from extra supports. Individuals may also directly request services. To refer a family or request a visit, call your local First Connections provider (www.health.ri.gov/find/firstconnectionsproviders).