Families at Risk
Early Identification and Support
Early identification of families at risk for social and emotional difficulties enables providers to offer services that may have the potential to prevent serious problems from developing later.
Questions to Ask
- Do you have any concerns about your baby or yourself?
- How were things for you growing up?
- Do you plan to raise your baby the way you were raised or differently? What would you change?
- Are you concerned that your baby will inherit any diseases or other characteristics that run in your family?
- Do you smoke? Drink alcohol? Have you taken drugs? Does your partner smoke, drink alcohol, or take drugs?
- Are you concerned about being able to afford food or supplies for your baby?
- Is transportation a problem for you?
- Ask confidentially: Does your partner ever threaten or hurt you?
- Assess family risk factors during the prenatal and postpartum periods in order to provide appropriate support.
- Unwanted pregnancies
- Premature infants
- Infants with disabilities or with low birthweight
- Teenage and unmarried mothers
- Mothers who did not complete high school
- Social isolation
- Parents with a history of substance abuse or mental disorders
- Families with a history of domestic violence
- Parents whose own lives have been characterized by separation, abuse, or neglect
- Families living below the federal poverty level
- Provide additional support to parents who:
- Missed the opportunity for early attachment with their baby due to infant hospitalization after delivery or adoption
- May be overwhelmed by their baby’s special health care needs or prematurity
- Have an older child with special health care needs
- Have parenting styles and expectations differing significantly from their baby’s temperament
- Consider referring parents to a mental health professional with expertise in infant mental health if parental concerns or infant characteristics indicate risk for early relationship problems.
- Using the guidance listed below, suggest additional resources for families that may need special support.
Guidance for Parents who May be at Risk
- Your community has agencies that are available to assist you with concerns such as financial help for health care expenses, food, housing, or transportation. Public health agencies are often the best place to start because they work with all types of community agencies and family needs. You may consider contacting them for help.
- If you want to learn more about your developing baby, resources for parent education and/or parent support groups are also available to help.
- In addition to public health agencies there may be social, faith-based, cultural, volunteer, and recreational organizations or programs available in the community to help support families.
- If your baby has special health care needs, your local public health department is required by law to provide services for you and your baby. Contact the department for help and information about these community resources.