Board OKs Family Connects program

Published 5:10 pm Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Beaufort County Board of Commissioners, with a 4-3 vote during its meeting Monday, authorized the Beaufort County Health Department to accept funding for a program that would provide home nursing visits to every child born in the county.

Voting for the authorization were board Chairman Jerry Langley and commissioners Ed Booth, Robert Belcher and Gary Brinn. Voting against it were commissioners Hood Richardson, Stan Deatherage and Al Klemm. Deatherage and Klemm expressed concerns the program could be intrusive in the lives of some people. Richardson said the program “is just another level of socialism.”

“I worry sometime that what may be an innocent invite, invitation, for someone to come into their house — the next thing you know you’ve someone who doesn’t understand the situation quite as well as they think they do. They have friends in the Department of Social Services. Lord knows, there have been some rocket scientists over there … in Child Protective Services over the years. It’s kind of scary,” Deatherage said. “They might report that over to one of those rocket scientists. Then they want to get involved. Then we’ve got a whole other problem. We’re getting to invasive. It starts out like a good thing. We’re the government. We’re here to help. Then, the next thing you know, you’ve got Social Services reporting you for this violation, that violation. Trust me. They make work over there. It’s not all about doing what’s right and doing what’s good, sometimes it’s just about doing what’s stupid. … I don’t want to get in a position to where we are a party to that.”

James Madson, Beaufort County’s health director, explained the Family Connects program to the commissioners. He said the program would be voluntary.

Madson said Family Connects is a best-practices strategy that’s part of the U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top grant program. Family Connects allows for one to three home nursing visits, with the focus of the visits being assessments of the mother, child and home.

Madson told the commissioners the health department would hire a nurse to run the program and that the program would provide advice to participants, not medical treatment.

The program is being established in four rural eastern North Carolina counties. It is part of the Race to the Top’s Early Learning Challenge Transformation Zone grant received by North Carolina to improve early childhood education systems in rural counties.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Public Health is looking for a lead agency for the project, according to a memorandum from Madson to the commissioners.

“Beaufort County Health Department would like to be able to accept this funding in order to oversee and manage the program. This would involve temporary hires into the position. It is expected that no county matches or county appropriations are necessary,” Madson wrote in the memorandum.

“The goal is to transfer the high quality standards of the Connects model to local counties, while still allowing for flexibility to meet the unique needs of the community. The program is intended to triage the family’s needs in 1 to 3 home visits as a “gateway” to support, screen, identify and refer families to community resources,” according to the Beaufort-Hyde Partnership for Children’s website. “The home visiting nurses will help recruit eligible families, visit them in the home 1-3 times, provide referrals and close cases within 12 weeks after birth.”

Madson said he would rather the Beaufort County Health Department oversee the program rather than another health department.

“That gives me control instead of having another county that’s controlling the program in this county,” Madson said.

For additional coverage of the commissioners meeting, see future editions of the Washington Daily News.


About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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