Community Connection

The Community Connection:
A New Model to Build Healthy Families

Venice Family Clinic is a leading community health center in Los Angeles committed to addressing the physical and social factors that can hinder good health. Over 30 years ago the Clinic became a pioneer in children’s health when, as a health care provider, it began offering an early childhood development program. The Clinic has since established a model of care that integrates a network of primary health care sites with Early Head Start centers serving people from the Santa Monica Mountains to the South Bay. The services are designed for both children and their caregivers, and are intended to build robust families and healthy adults.

The people the Clinic serves are disproportionately at risk for poorer health outcomes. Of the 2,200 families, from birth to the child’s third birthday, who visit the Clinic, 72% live below the poverty level, earning just $26,500 to support a family of four. Many live in substandard housing, have difficulty finding employment (or work multiple jobs), and encounter other day-to-day challenges that create stressful environments during early formative years. The impacts of this trauma can be seen decades later in poor health and economic outcomes.

Integrating Early Childhood Development and Health Care

Challenges facing young families in Los Angeles have grown more complex, so the Clinic continues to adapt and evolve with new programs and community partnerships. In early 2020, a generous planning grant allowed the Clinic to step back and assess how to best address the systemic inequities that drive disparities in early childhood. The Clinic assembled a panel of patients and experts and in January 2022, after an extensive research and planning period, launched a new multi-pronged initiative called The Community Connection that offers a continuum of care for families from the moment a family is expecting a child through the first three years of the child’s life. The services are designed to support young families while they build emotional and economic resilience and work toward breaking the cycle of poverty. The services will immediately be available to parents and children from birth to age three, with plans to expand to older children as the program and funding is further developed.

The Community Connection will fully integrate medical, mental health care and early childhood wraparound services, build social capital in the neighborhoods the Clinic serves and foster economic opportunity and increased resilience for the Clinic’s most vulnerable families.

The Community Connection

Family Care Teams: An inter-disciplinary cohort of early childhood and medical professionals will coordinate all services and ensure families are able to take advantage of the full continuum of care. Teams of pediatricians, therapists, health educators, Early Head Start personnel, UCLA residents, and others will meet monthly to assess and make recommendations for high-risk families in destabilizing situations.

Doulas & Lactation Consultation: Offered to families as part of prenatal and postnatal care, doulas focus on educating the expecting mother and her partner about birth, providing psychosocial support and ensuring referrals for more complex medical or mental health issues. A certified lactation consultant will help parents navigate any number of feeding challenges they may face.

Infant Mental Health Therapy: Mothers and fathers will get therapy to prepare them for parenthood and create healthy, attuned attachment in the parent-infant bond.

 

 

Playgroups: Playgroups help children begin to socialize and provide connection for parents who may feel isolated, all while parents learn about healthy child development and connect with other parents in their community.

 

 

Classes & Group Medical Visits: Classes available include: parenting skills and family relationships; chronic disease management and prevention; nutrition and healthy cooking (with free produce distributions); and exercise. New mothers are offered CenteringPregnancy™, an evidence-based group medical visit program that brings together pregnant women of the same gestational age, and CenteringParenting™, group medical visit for parents and babies that follow the well-baby visit schedule.

Adult Education & Job Training: To help families struggling to find good-paying jobs with benefits, we will partner with the Los Angeles Unified School District to give parents access to enhanced employment opportunities.

A Physical and Virtual Presence

The hub of the initiative will be a new community center for health and wellness in Inglewood where families will be able to access services and connect with each other. Venice Family Clinic has recently purchased a building on Crenshaw Boulevard that will serve as the home for this program after renovation is complete. To increase access, programs will also be held virtually and at many of the other 17 sites in the Clinic’s network from the Santa Monica Mountains through the South Bay.

Since 1994 Elizabeth Benson Forer has led Venice Family Clinic’s growth from one clinic in Venice to 17 sites serving 45,000 people from the Santa Monica Mountains through the South Bay.

We have established “The Liz Forer Community Connection Fund” to advance the ambitious goals of The Community Connection program. In recognition of the gifts we receive to this fund, we will name “Liz’s Playground” at the Inglewood site.