Hello Baby: Strengthening resource connections for parents and families in Allegheny County, PA

By Gladys Antelo-Allen, Senior Program Manager for Field Building and Resources

Strengthening ecosystems of care Pregnancy & children

Allegheny County, PA convenes a monthly forum for community partners and providers who are interested in transforming care, improving the well-being of families with newborns, and building collaborations and partnerships across regional ecosystems of care in western PA. Modeled after the Camden Coalition’s monthly Camden Care Management Meetings, this forum provides opportunities for attendees to network, participate in case conferences, learn about programs serving Allegheny residents, and receive training on topics relevant to helping families.  

Supporting providers to support families

In 2019, the Camden Coalition began working with the Department of Human Services (DHS) in Allegheny County, PA — which includes Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania’s second most populous city — to support a new county-wide initiative called Hello Baby. Hello Baby is a pathway to a network of support for parents of new babies with the goal of strengthening families, improving children’s outcomes, and maximizing child and family well-being, safety, and security. Hello Baby is a tiered model with a variety of voluntary supports designed to meet families’ varied needs and interests. Families who are at low risk for engagement with the child welfare system are provided with general resources and supports, while those who are at highest risk can access more intensive case management. 

Over the course of our engagement, Camden Coalition subject matter experts have coached and advised the Allegheny County DHS on program design and trained frontline staff and supervisors in our COACH patient engagement and RELATE supervision frameworks. COACH is a set of person-centered tools and techniques to help practitioners support the vision, priorities, and goals of participants and build authentic healing relationships. The RELATE framework gives supervisors of frontline staff tools they need to mentor and develop their staff. 

“The Camden Coalition staff has been instrumental in every aspect of Hello Baby,” said Amy Malen, Assistant Deputy Director at Allegheny County Department of Human Services. “They have helped us at every step of the way — from planning to implementation to continuous process improvement. Their expertise has encouraged all of us — including those of us working at the Department of Human Services, agency frontline staff, their supervisors and community leaders — to think differently about how to engage, meaningfully connect with, and change outcomes for highest-need families in the county.” 

The power of a simple monthly, cross-organizational meeting

Existing siloes and communication challenges between organizations and agencies in Allegheny County were only exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. To meaningfully and collaboratively address the needs of the community at-large and strengthen connections among providers across the region required some strategic thinking.  

Having worked in a similar landscape at our inception in 2002, Camden Coalition staff suggested that Allegheny County DHS hold regular monthly convening of all stakeholders together in a model akin to our Camden Care Management Meetings 

Camden Care Management Meetings are a monthly forum for community members and professionals interested in transforming care and improving the well-being of individuals with complex health and social needs in the Camden, NJ area. The Camden Coalition has been hosting these meetings for two decades now, and they continue to provide attendees with opportunities to network, participate in case conferencing, learn about programs serving Camden residents, and receive training in topics relevant to serving patients with complex needs. These meetings have successfully driven connections and partnerships between community organizations, and we hoped they could serve our partners in Allegheny County just as well. 

The Hello Baby Support Network Meeting launched in December 2021 with over 60 providers in attendance who represented a wide array of community-based organizations, academic institutions, and healthcare organizations. The focus of the first session was to simply get as many resources into the virtual room as possible in order to begin to build rapport and connections between organizations that provide services to children, parents, and families in Allegheny County.  

In the post-meeting survey, attendees overwhelmingly expressed the value of simply being able to connect with individuals from organizations that they have either heard about or referred individuals/families to in the past. They also appreciated learning about newer initiatives that they were not as familiar with, and getting information on who qualifies for services and how to connect and refer families and individuals. One meeting attendee said, “It is always great to get to know people better and have a better understanding of who they are, as it builds the connection and relationships needed to do this work well.” 

A planning committee, composed of a diverse group of leaders from organizations across the county, meets monthly to plan the Hello Baby Support Network Meetings. The meetings have evolved to include guest speakers, panel discussions, and presentations that spotlight a specific resource to the larger group. Each month, providers share a case presentation that highlights some of the barriers and challenges faced by their clients, and get insights and recommendations from the larger group. The meetings close with a partnership success story, where selected presenters highlight a moment of collaboration between partners that supported an individual/parent/family in meeting their needs or goals.

Backing up rapport with resources

A year into its implementation, the Hello Baby Support Network Monthly Forum has proven to be successful in accomplishing its goal to better support the providers, parents, and families of Allegheny County through meaningful partnerships, connections, and resource sharing 

The Allegheny County DHS recently launched a password-protected webpage available to members of the HBSN that houses information shared during the monthly meetings. The webpage provides an archive of items including panelists’ resources, video recordings, presentations, agendas, etc. 

The webpage is one of the ways in which feedback from members of the HBSN is documented and implemented into practice. It also allows members of HBSN to access information and resources shared through meetings in real time and as needed while working with families. DHS is currently working on an updated directory that will also be housed on the webpage that will include updated contact information for partners across the county. Having an updated directory will continue to support the goal of continued cross-collaboration and relationship-building among organizations serving families across the county.  

Putting the puzzle together

With a growing number of meeting registrants every month and overwhelmingly positive feedback, it is safe to say that providers in Allegheny County are finding these meetings extremely valuable to their work.  

When asked what they found most valuable about the Hello Baby Support Network Meeting, one meeting attendee wrote, “I am a new Family Center Site Director, so I am still navigating how to be most successful in my role and compiling a list of resources. The panel discussion was extremely helpful and introduced me to programs I did not know existed in our region. I am so grateful and excited to be part of this group.” 

And as another wrote, “the value of these monthly meetings is simply connecting with partners, learning who is doing what, and learning how we are all pieces of this puzzle.”

Are you interested in organizing a similar monthly provider meeting in your own community? Learn more about technical assistance offerings from the Camden Coalition here. Are you a Camden-area provider looking to connect with others who serve individuals with complex needs? Learn more about our Camden Care Management Meetings here.