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From the President: Emerging Issues

 The Importance of Family-Professional Partnerships

Working with Your Title V Maternal Child Health Bureau

By Amy A. Holbert, LISW-CP
Mother to two beautiful sons
Executive Director, Family Connection of South Carolina

Family Connection of South Carolina is the family-to-family health information center and the parent training and information center for the state. Family Connection provides statewide, family-centered programs and services to parents and caregivers, including emotional support, information, education, and navigation of community resources.

In South Carolina, there is a longstanding relationship between Family Connection and South Carolina's Title V Maternal Child Health Bureau (MCHB) at the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). South Carolina's MCHB and Family Connection work to establish clear, intentional practices with families to improve the outcomes for children with special health care needs throughout their lives. A key element of this relationship is building relationships with state and local leaders. Developing mutual respect for the skills and expertise or each organization is important. A commitment to intentional, planned opportunities for open communication between the Title V program staff and the family serving organization is imperative.

DHEC also subcontracts with Family Connection to ensure families have access to support and related services for children with special health care needs. The Neonatal Parent Navigator Program is one example. Family Connection hires, trains, and ensures the quality of specialized parent navigators located in four of the five Regional Perinatal Centers. They make weekly visits; host family support groups; disseminate information on early intervention, medical home, and community resources; and provide emotional support. Last year, this partnership allowed Family Connection to support 1,558 parents of babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Families also received scholarships to attend the Annual Hopes and Dreams Conference, allowing them to learn alongside the professionals who care for their children.

South Carolina's MCHB works closely with Family Connection to include family representation on state- and federal-level committees, as well as state and local leadership groups, ensuring family input is reflected in its services and policy decisions. Parent leaders serve on the state's Birth Defects Advisory Group and its Pediatric Advisory Group. Family Connection's executive director is on the MCHB's Needs Assessment Leadership Team and has participated in the Needs Assessment review process. As a parent who benefited from this partnership, I personally know that South Carolina's leadership at the MCHB has been unwavering in its dedication to ensuring that the family-centered care is a core principle, and not supplemental, to producing better outcomes for children and their families.