The Difference DULCE Makes

By: Scott Johnson

Susan had just had her first child. She was excited to be a new mom but was overwhelmed with caring for her newborn, the family’s financial stress, and tension between her and her partner. At the baby’s initial newborn Well Child visit at Appleseed Pediatrics, Susan met Jenn, our DULCE Family Support worker.

DULCE (Developmental Understanding and Legal Collaboration for Everyone) is a three year demonstration project sponsored by the Center for the Study of Social Policy taking place in seven sites across the country. The Lamoille Family Center and Appleseed Pediatrics is the model for the program in a smaller rural community. DULCE is an innovative pediatric-care-based intervention through which primary care clinical sites proactively address social determinants of health and promote the healthy development of infants from birth to six months of age and provide support to their parents. DULCE’s intervention adds a Family Specialist (FS) to the pediatric care team, and the FS provides support for families with infants in the clinic setting, connecting them to resources based on parents’ needs and priorities – with the option of providing home visits, at the parents’ choice. The DULCE intervention incorporates a protective factors approach and draws on and incorporates components of the Medical-Legal Partnership model to ensure that families have access to the resources they need.

The DULCE family specialist meets with families at their first newborn pediatric visit and stays connected with them through their first six months. This gives new families support with issues that arise, but also in connects families to concrete supports that are designed to help families thrive.

Jenn referred Susan and her family to Economic Services and encouraged them to apply for Reach Up, a program that helps eligible parents gain job skills and find work so they can support their children. This family was already receiving WIC and 3Squares food benefits but they didn’t know about the program that provides supplemental income support for families with children. Receiving these benefits helped ease their financial stress.

Jenn worked with the DULCE Medical Legal Partner to help the child’s father apply for Social Security benefits. Over the next six months Jenn’s encouragement helped the family keep their scheduled well child visits, increased their food stability, and lifted some of the financial stress with a monthly Reach Up grant.  They also connected to Children’s Integrated Services at the Family Center for additional in-home parenting support and education.

In the year since their child was born, the increased support of the DULCE program helped the family develop a good rapport with their Pediatrician, keep current on their well child visits, and enroll in social programs that strengthen their family.

“I think this service was a nice addition to the already wonderful relationship we enjoy with Dr. Balu. I believe for families in more difficult family or friend circumstances it is probably essential. I can’t stress enough how important these types of services are to families. Emotional support and creating access to vital resources.” – DULCE parent

For more information about DULCE, visit https://www.cssp.org/pages/dulce.


Scott Johnson is Executive Director of the Lamoille Family Center and has worked in Lamoille Valley in human services and education for nearly his entire career. The Family Center has served our community by encouraging, educating and celebrating children, youth and families for forty years.

Scott writes about early care and education, adolescent development and strengthening families that improve conditions of well-being.

About the author

Live Well Lamoille
Live Well Lamoille

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