For a young family from rural southwest Oregon, the birth of their first daughter was riddled with challenges. The baby was born two months premature and spent her first two months of life in the hospital, located more than 60 miles away from the family’s home. Without resources to travel back and forth between the neonatal unit and their house, the mother and father had to stay in a low-cost housing unit of the hospital. And when the baby was released, she required 24-hour care. Unemployed at the time and with limited financial and family assistance, they couple was forced to move and relied on “couch surfing” for a warm place to sleep. But things began to turn around when they met Angie Newton, a community outreach supervisor with Siskiyou Community Health Center.
A Direct Relief partner, Siskiyou provides affordable health care for people in need at multiple sites in Oregon’s Illinois Valley region. Newton helps with the center’s Project Baby Check program, a home visiting program for families with children under five years old. The program supports parents and their children who need some extra help in getting a healthy start.
Project Baby Check is voluntary and free to any families willing to participate. Once enrolled, certified outreach workers such as Newton spend time with the families to assess needs, keep track of the child’s development, provide preventive care, and foster a supportive relationship with the family and child. They also connect them with educational classes, monthly meet up groups and basic necessities like diapers, formula, food and clothing.
“As a new parent, there are so many uncertainties. Project Baby Check gives [families] confidence and brings the community together,” Newton told Direct Relief.
With Newton’s help, the family learned how to apply for low-income housing and also helped them receive additional resources for their ongoing medical needs. As of last month, both the mother and father are working and are almost entirely off of public assistance. Their daughter – who was largely at risk for developmental delays – is healthy and thriving.
“Project Baby Check has been instrumental in helping them with basic needs…but also with linking them to other much needed community resources,” said Newton. “Without this program’s support, they would have had a much more difficult time in this very difficult situation.”
Direct Relief is privileged to support health centers like Siskiyou that not only provide low-income families with maternal and child health care, but also with services including dental, pharmaceutical, and mental health. Direct Relief has worked with Siskiyou for four years, providing medicines and supplies needed to treat people in need on an ongoing basis and has specifically supported Project Baby Check with infant formula. Most recently, Direct Relief supported the health center with emergency supplies during the wildfires burning across the southern part of the state.