More than 100 community leaders and elected officials gathered at St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood on September 2 to celebrate Welcome Baby, a free and voluntary maternal home visiting program funded by First 5 LA and designed to partner with parents to enhance the child-parent relationship and the health, safety and security of Los Angeles County’s youngest children.

Welcome Baby connects new mothers at participating hospitals with a trained parent coach who can help address early challenges like breastfeeding, infant care, and maternal health and well-being. Depending on where they live, mothers may be eligible for up to nine Welcome Baby engagement points: three visits prenatally, once at the hospital, and up to five times after the baby’s birth.

St. Francis is one of 13 L.A. County hospitals with Welcome Baby programs. First 5 LA invested nearly $30 million in these programs in FY 2014-15. By 2016, Welcome Baby is expected to touch 25 percent of all L.A. County births.

According to First 5 LA Government Affairs Manager Tessa Charnofsky, Tuesday’s event at St. Francis was intended to give “all Welcome Baby stakeholders the opportunity to celebrate the Welcome Baby program and acknowledge the importance of its work.”

Among those participating in the program were U.S. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, 40th District, and Assembly Member Anthony Rendon, 63rd District. In her comments, Roybal-Allard praised maternal home visitation as one proven strategy for improving health outcomes among children.

“The in-hospital visit and the in-home appointment with a nurse or parent coach provide critical breastfeeding and newborn care education for the first few weeks of their new baby’s life,” Roybal-Allard said.

Recalling the “exhaustion, insecurity and isolation” of early motherhood, Roybal-Allard also praised maternal home visiting as a strategy for increasing social connectedness.

Kim Belshé, executive director of First 5 LA, affirmed First 5 LA’s commitment to investing in voluntary, quality home-visiting programs.

“We believe that the work done by St. Francis Medical Center’s Welcome Baby program is absolutely indispensable in terms of advancing First 5 LA’s mission to improve child health, safety and school-readiness in L.A. County,” Belshé said. “We are thrilled to celebrate St. Francis’ important work and our partnership with them at this event.”

For more information, contact First 5 LA Policy Fellow Sara Johnsen at [email protected].