“My Baby, My Doctor & Me”: Family Voice in Early Relational Health Pilot Study

Center for the Study of Social Policy
November 2020
This report highlights parents’ perspective on foundational early relationships and the role of the health care system in promoting early relational health.
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In fall 2019, a small group of stakeholders in Oregon committed to listening carefully to family perspectives on foundational early relationships and the potential for the child health care system to play a supportive role. Focus groups were conducted with three groups of families: Black and African American mothers living in inner Northeast Portland; Spanish-speaking Latinx mothers living in rural Oregon; and white mothers living in an isolated rural community in southern Oregon. The project was designed to generate questions and identify areas in need of further research and learning that will be important to advancing the ongoing dialogue about family voice, equity, and the concept of early relational health.

During focus groups, parents were asked to talk about the following topics: what early parent-infant relationships mean to them and how positive relationships can be established; where parents go for support for themselves and their babies; experiences with, and feelings about, the role of health care providers in supporting their early foundational relationships; and ideas and recommendations for how health care providers could best support families in developing strong relationships.

Key Ideas Heard From Parents

  • Parents value strong relationships with their children.
  • Emotional support for parents is extremely important, and families tend to find this with trusted friends and family members.
  • Parents continue to experience racism, classism, and judgment in their relationships with medical providers and frequently spoke of not “being heard.”
  • Parents do not feel that medical providers view their child, or their family, holistically.
  • When directly asked about the role of medical providers in supporting early foundational relationships, there was some notable skepticism.
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