Family connects team

Family Connects’ team of nurses providing services throughout Watauga County (left to right): Kateland Miller, RN; Donna Moore, MSN, RN; Stephanie Moody, RN, Tasha Fuller, BSN, Dr. Scott St. Clair, MD; Ashley Ford, RN; Carrington Pertalion, CNM.

BOONE — High Country medical professionals launched a program that provides a safety net for new families in the area on Oct. 4.

Family Connects is an evidence-based program, building on research that indicates more than 90 percent of families can use some additional support. The program has expanded into the three rural counties across the state of North Carolina: Watauga, Ashe and Avery counties.

“This is a way to build back community and link people to resources right away,” said Crystal Kelly, director of strategic initiatives at The Children’s Council of Watauga County.

“There are other countries where this is normal. Part of the health care system is that you have support after the birth of a baby,” she said. “It’s seen here as kind of progressive but the fact that we don’t have support for families is a sign of trouble.”

The Family Connects model brings together families, health care providers and community agencies to give babies their best start possible. Family Connects’ team of registered nurses conduct at home visits based on the individual needs of families. The nurses provide a variety of care such as help with feeding and safe sleep to sharing information about parenting and childcare groups.

“We want to see a community where children can flourish regardless of their circumstances,” Kelly said.

To reduce barriers for accessing the program, the services offered through Family Connects are free.

Carrington Pertalion, one of the medical directors for Family Connects a certified nurse midwife and past maternal child health nurse at the health department, said this is crucial to the program’s mission.

“No cost visits conveniently offered in a family’s home from qualified RNs who are there to offer support and connection to so many wonderful resources available here in the High Country for a family with a new baby? It’s a win-win connection,” she said.

More information on Family Connects can be found at familyconnectsnorthwest.org.

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