Strong Families is a free, voluntary program for pregnant and parenting families.
Optimally, the pregnant person enrolls during pregnancy to allow us a chance to get to know each other before the baby arrives, but families can sign up until 6 weeks from hospital discharge.
We have a team of nurses to cover counties throughout the state, but in general the family will have one nurse that meets with them regularly throughout their time in the program. The nurses are able to provide support for families from pregnancy through the child’s second birthday, focusing on the health of the family, child development, parenting and connecting families to any community resources they may need. Nurses partner with families to achieve goals, whether they are related to parenting, infant feeding, housing, education, career development or other goals that promote the wellbeing of the family. The program has a set visit pattern and curriculum but there is flexibility with both to meet the needs of the family. Most families choose to have visits in the comfort of their own home, although some families prefer to meet somewhere else that is more comfortable for them.
We have a few curriculums we use to guide parents to support their baby’s social-emotional, physical and cognitive development and do regular screenings to make sure the child is on track with their development as well as doing screenings with the parent to make sure they are getting the support they need as well, such as postpartum depression screening. We have baby scales to make sure the baby is gaining well, and are all trained to be able to offer lactation support. We are able to help monitor blood pressure if there is a concern and with the consent of the parent, we communicate with the mom and/or baby’s medical providers to address any concerns. Many postpartum people find it very helpful to have these visits that may decrease the amount of appointments they need to get up and out of the house for.
We try to get a few visits in during pregnancy and then after the baby is born, we are available to meet weekly during the newborn period when there tends to be a lot of questions and sometimes challenges that the nurses are happy to help the family with as they adjust to life with their new baby.
After the family is more settled, we spread the visits out, usually meeting every other week for the next several months and at some point, stretching visits to once a month. Many families wish to continue monthly visits until they finish the program, but some prefer to spread the visits out further as their baby/toddler gets older. Our goal is to find a schedule that fits for the family and their needs. When or if parents go back to work, sometimes we can still arrange times that work to meet and sometimes we need to end their time in the program.
Since the nurses are on the CIS team, it is easy to connect families to other resources they may need. We are also able to bring diapers and wipes from the diaper bank, and other supplies and toys the family may need to support their baby’s development. Currently, we also have American Rescue Plan funds that we are able to offer families for needed items for the family’s health, safety and wellbeing.
In terms of who is eligible for the program, anyone that is eligible for WIC or Medicaid is eligible for Strong Families. If the parent staying home with the child is unemployed or has reduced income that would make them eligible for WIC or Medicaid at that time, they are also eligible, even if their income goes up when they go back to work. The other parent’s income is not included for this calculation.
Strong Families is part of integrated system of support for Vermont families. For other services offered through the CIS program, click here.
To learn more about Children’s Integrated Services, visit the Vermont Agency of Human Services, Department for Children and Families website
To make a referral or if you have any questions, please contact Tonya Kangas, CIS Coordinator:
Phone: (802) 257-2101 x 203
Fax: (802) 258-2413