First Lady Diana Rauner visited Peoria Wed. to launch a statewide pilot project for newborns in low-income households.
Illinois Family Connects provides free in-home nurse visits for to Peoria County families who deliver a baby at OSF HealthCare.
Diana Rauner says it reduces a family’s reliance on other services, like emergency room visits or counseling.
Hospitals, social services and early childhood education were all negatively impacted by the state’s 2-year budget impasse. But Rauner says the Illinois Family pilot doesn’t necessarily fill the gaps left by reduced funding to those agencies.
“I mean, this is one of the many innovations that we’ve been trying to do across the last few years in our state. But it builds on a tremendous system of home visiting services.”
The first lady heads the Ounce of Prevention Fund, a not-for-profit organization focused on early childhood education. She says the program is a relief for parents, particularly first-timers.
"It normalizes the reality, which is that parenting requires lots of people to help out," Rauner said.
Nurses appointed by Illinois Family Connects are able to assist families with family medicine needs, like checkups, but they're also trained to provide social-emotional support, such as postpartum depression screenings for mothers, back-to-work support and information about childcare and family planning advice.
Children’s Home estimates about 1,500 low-income families in Peoria could benefit from the program.
Illinois Family Connects is based on a similar program in Durham, NC.