A Guest Post from Jana Wright
November 10, 2021
Top image via iStock from artist lostinbids
CJ* is a first-time mom of a now 2.5-month-old infant. She enrolled in Raising Baby, a home visiting program in Los Angeles County, when her son was 2 weeks old. She shared that her pregnancy was unexpected, and she felt “unprepared to be a mom.” During the first month of enrollment, CJ struggled to attend scheduled bi-monthly visits due to multiple stressors: health, financial, marital and a lack of physical support for parenting. She expressed having no knowledge of breastfeeding, age-appropriate activities, and child development. The Raising Baby team provided breastfeeding education and support, helped her learn the importance of and how to play, and showed her how to soothe her baby through parent-child activities. In addition, Raising Baby used activities to promote her baby’s motor, cognitive, social-emotional and language development. Within a few months of consistent, individual visits, CJ’s increase in both her parenting knowledge and confidence were demonstrated in her positive interactions with her baby.
CJ expressed to the Raising Baby team “I am so grateful for this program and your support. I can’t believe how far we’ve come. This program is invaluable to me. I have learned so much already.”
The Los Angeles County Perinatal and Early Childhood Home Visiting Consortium (LACPECHVC), commonly referred to as “The Consortium”, the nation’s largest home visiting collaborative, is currently engaging in a five-year strategic planning process, in order to reach more families, dads, and moms like CJ. The strategic planning process affords us a great opportunity to recenter and refocus our goals and efforts to better serve families in Los Angeles County. As the largest home visiting initiative, we have the opportunity and responsibility to lead by example and demonstrate for rest of the country how creating an equitable playing field can support and uplift families.
The Consortium is a network of over 60 perinatal and early childhood home visitation programs, parental and child health organizations, advocacy groups, and stakeholders. Together, we work to support Los Angeles County’s home visitation programs by sharing training and educational resources, researching best practice standards, supporting enhanced referral systems between programs, conducting research and collecting data on home visiting outcomes, and advocating for systems and policies that recognize the tremendous value of home visitation services. The Consortium is made up of 6 Workgroups (Referrals, Best Practices, Data, Father Engagement Advocacy, and African American Engagement), each focusing on specific goals that elevate and promote the work of home visitation in the county. The mission of the Consortium is to coordinate, measure and advocate for high quality home-based support to strengthen all expectant and parenting families so that the children of Los Angeles County are healthy, safe and ready to learn.
Simply put, home visiting provides a helping hand to pregnant people and families with children ages 0 to 5. Formally, the Consortium defines perinatal and early childhood home visiting as a multi-disciplinary, family-centered support strategy with services delivered by trained professionals in the home that is offered on a voluntary basis to pregnant women and/or families with children through the age of 5; provides a comprehensive array of holistic, strength-based services that promote parent and child physical and mental health, bonding and attachment, confidence and self-sufficiency, and optimizes infant/child development by building positive, empathetic, and supportive relationships with families and reinforcing nurturing relationships between parents and children; and is designed to empower parent(s) to achieve specific outcomes which may include: healthy pregnancy, birth and infancy, optimal infant/child development, school readiness and prevention of adverse childhood experiences. More commonly, home visiting programs are known in the community by their specific models such as Parents as Teachers, Early Head Start, Nurse-Family Partnership, Welcome Baby, Healthy Families America, Partnership for Families, and more. In Los Angeles County, multiple models are represented, including those listed above, as well as home grown models such as the Department of Health Services MAMA’s Neighborhood and Raising Baby.
As we have reflected on our history, examined the current issues that face our families and home visiting staff, and looked to the future, it has become clear that our overarching focus needs to be equity: equity for all families in LA County, regardless of ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, immigration status or family composition. Part of our strategic planning process has included a racial equity assessment. Gina Airey Consulting has guided Consortium members through this process including a survey, focus groups, and reflection sessions. Out of these reflection sessions, a gap was identified. Consortium members came to the consensus that in order to achieve equity we must center families by meaningfully engaging them in the Consortium.
Home visiting helped CJ navigate parenthood, overcome barriers, and develop her parenting skills. We realize that we must keep families’ experiences centered as the home visiting system of Los Angeles County expands to serve more families. To ensure home visiting is equitable for all, the engagement of families by the Consortium will be the focus of our action planning for the next five years.
To learn more about the Consortium, please visit https://homevisitingla.org/.
*Note that the name of the client was changed to protect the client’s right to privacy.
Jana Wright, MPH, is Director of Policy at LA Best Babies Network and Coordinator of the Los Angeles County Perinatal and Early Childhood Home Visitation Consortium. She holds a Master of Public Health degree, with a concentration in Community Health, from the University of Southern California. Jana earned her Bachelor of Arts in political science and biology from Georgia Southern University. Before joining LABBN, she worked as a Senior Policy Analyst for WellCare Health Plans and a Legislative Assistant for Mixon and Associates, a boutique lobbying firm focused on health and education issues. Jana is passionate about reducing African-American infant and maternal mortality in Los Angeles County. She resides in Downtown Los Angeles with her husband and three kids, ages 6, 4, and 2.