RIght Start Profile: Family Home Visiting Reunites a Father and Son

Family home visiting programs like Healthy Families America and Nurse-Family Partnership are helping Rhode Island children and parents thrive by connecting them with health care, housing, nutrition, and educational resources. We need to invest $1.3 million in state and federal funding to sustain these programs that are proven to help build more strong, healthy families today and save costs over time.

Here’s a powerful example of how Amy, a Healthy Families support specialist at Meeting Street, helped a father and son reunite, find housing and enroll in Head Start.

Family Home Visiting Reunites a Father and Son

After saving enough money, John Wilson moved to Rhode Island from New York to try to reunify with his son. His baby had been living in a foster placement since birth and DCYF was in the process of terminating his parental rights.

John found a room to rent, but quickly began hitting roadblocks and dead ends trying to understand what he needed to do next. He learned about Healthy Families America, an evidence-based family home visiting program managed by the Rhode Island Department of Health. He reached out for help, and was soon connected to a Healthy Families support specialist at Meeting Street, Amy.

“Pretty much being a single parent, you’re trying to figure things out on your own,” said John. “To have another person like Amy help you with things you couldn’t do on your own . . . I wouldn’t have been able to deal with a lot of stuff without her. She knew so much and helped me so much.”

Besides weekly joint visits with his son, Amy and John would meet routinely to go over items he needed help with, like housing. Amy put John in touch with a program to help him find an apartment and much more.

With the support of Health Families, John ultimately gained full custody of his son, and his case was closed to DCYF about three months after the reunification with no further DCYF involvement. John graduated from the Healthy Families program in summer 2019 when his son turned age 4.

John and his son

“I was sad when it ended for me, but even to this day, even though I’m out of the program, Amy and I check in and she’s still willing to help me,” said John. “She goes out of her way, even though I know she doesn’t have to.”

After John completed the Healthy Families program, Amy assisted John in getting his child enrolled in Head Start to continue down a path of success. Like John and many other Rhode Island families that have relied on the priceless support of evidence-based family home visiting programs, the Rhode Island Department of Health is urged to maintain its essential funding with state and federal dollars.

“This is an excellent program in my opinion, and the only one that really helped me,” said John. “If I didn’t have the Healthy Families program, I probably wouldn’t have gotten my son.”