This blog post is a re-post of an e-newsletter article written for the Center for Study of Social Policy’s “The DULCE Digest” Spring 2021 issue released on March 18, 2021.
Theresa Soares, DULCE Family Specialist in South Burlington, Vermont, knows firsthand the power of trusted relationships when working with families. Through various conversations with a mother of a newborn, beginning at the first well-child visit, Theresa learned that this family was struggling financially and having difficulty getting the needed repairs to their home from their landlord. Mom, at first, indicated that she was aware of what to do and didn’t need support from Theresa.
Theresa used the weekly case review meeting to check-in with the legal partner about how to navigate landlord concerns. By the next visit with the family, Theresa used her relationship-building skills by checking in on how the mother was doing and listening to her needs. At the end of that visit, she talked to the mother about a few community resources, how they might benefit her housing repair needs, and how to connect with them. Theresa was able to support the mom so that by her next infant well-child visit, the landlord had installed a new heating unit, new smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, a fuel delivery was made to the home after being approved for heating assistance, and an application had been placed for childcare tuition assistance. Mom was proud to say these had all been addressed and that as soon as her daughter was in childcare, she would be taking steps to finish her childcare teacher certification and/or find employment for herself.
By focusing on developing a trusted relationship, Theresa was able to better understand the need of the family she was working with. Family Specialists play a key role in DULCE by developing and leveraging relationships to positively impact families, clinics, and communities. They are connectors between the health system and community to support a broad range of needs. DULCE Family Specialists work to honor parents as key decision-makers and experts of their newborn, reaffirming the power families and their communities hold.
Developmental Understanding and Legal Collaboration for Everyone (DULCE) is an intervention that takes place within a pediatric care office to address social determinants of health in infants, zero to 6 months, and provides support for their parents. A Family Specialist, trained in child development from the local Parent Child Center, attends the well child visits with families and medical providers. Together with the DULCE team, consisting of nurses, legal help, and pediatricians, the Family Specialist is able to help connect families with support systems to address the health disparities that often affect low income families, families of color, and immigrants. Learn more at: https://cssp.org/our-work/project/dulce/.