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Program provides free in-home visits for new Austin parents after leaving hospital

Family Connects fills the gap in professional care from the moment parents leave the hospital with their newborn until their first visit with their pediatrician.

AUSTIN, Texas — Leaving the hospital with a newborn comes with a bundle of mixed emotions – joy, stress, love, worry. Parents finally have to test the tips learned in the baby books, and a lot of work is now ahead.

The United Way of Greater Austin wanted to help make the transition easier, so they brought the program, Family Connects, to Austin.

"When you leave [the hospital], I remember thinking we are just going to go home and that's it," Danny Bravens said. 

He and his wife, Shalyn, were the first family to receive the service in Austin one year ago.

The program, which was originally created in North Carolina, provides free nurse home visits to families who have recently delivered a newborn.

Credit: KVUE

The Bravens had their second child last year, and said the program helped take away their anxiety and build their confidence in parenting.

The research-based program showed that "families having the visits had really great outcomes, such as less reported maternal anxiety, more connection to resources and fewer emergency room visits," said Bravens, who is also the director of Family Connects.

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Omaira Hanif, who is a registered nurse with the program, said that during her thorough one-day visit, she completes a physical assessment of the newborn, speaks with the parents about their well-being, answers questions they may have and provides appropriate support services to them.

In the year since the Austin program started, more than 650 families benefited from the service, Bravens said. 

"We just have to make it a couple of weeks and we can just bundle up all our questions and any concerns or problems we’ve had," said Danny. 

According to Shalyn, research shows that 94% of families had some level of need after bringing home their newborn.

"If you think about the 14,000 babies born in Travis County each year, that’s a lot of families that have needs," she said.

RELATED: New program at St. David's helps Austin preemies get out of the hospital sooner

The program partners with Austin Public Health, and is staffed with four nurses and a nurse supervisor.

It is currently only available to any Austin and Travis County residents who delivered at St. David's South Austin Medical Center. However, Bravens said as the program grows, they will continue to expand services to as many families as possible.

"They say it takes a village to raise a child, and Family Connects is that village," said Shalyn.

WATCH: Program helps Central Texas parents with preemies


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