December 12, 2016 – Project DULCE (Developmental Understanding and Legal Collaboration for Everyone), is one of Legal Aid’s newest Projects. DULCE seeks to identify and address infant/family risks and needs with the goal to build protective factors for the family in a primary health care setting. It specifically targets infants ages 0-6 months, but the benefits of the program extend to the whole family, including the parents and especially the siblings.
DULCE is a pilot program we were chosen to participate in based on the long-standing partnership between the Palm Beach County Health Care District and Legal Aid’s Medical Legal Partnership Project. The pilot program was developed by the Boston Medical Center and the Boston Medical Legal Partnership Project. The Project will be monitored and evaluated by researchers from Chapin Hall Center for Child Research at the University of Chicago, with the goal of improving medical outcomes by initiating early social work and legal interventions. If the pilot is successful there are plans to replicate it in other clinics across the country. Additional pilot programs are being tested in California and Vermont.
The Project is funded by the Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County and the Center for Study of Social Policy. The Project team members include Supervising Attorney John Foley, Attorney Juan Medolla and Family Specialist Deneisha Watson. DULCE helps educate and inform the parents about proper child development and safe, healthy child care and supports families by providing legal advice, consultations, and representation to address their civil legal needs.
Deneisha works closely with the parents of the newborns with the goals of improving child development and reducing maltreatment by providing families with age related information on child development and determining if there are any unmet legal needs that can be handled by the Project attorney. The attorney provides free civil legal services and resources to families in areas that include access to public benefits and health coverage, housing, employment, domestic violence, discrimination, and other legal factors that severely impact the family’s health and safety.
The families of the newborns are recruited into the program when they go for their first well-check visit at the CL Brumback Healthcare Clinic on 45th Street in West Palm Beach. If they agree to be a part of the program they are randomly assigned to either the intervention group or control group. The control group receives an informational session on safe sleep and safe transportation, with an option of receiving either a portable crib or car seat. Families in the intervention group are assigned to Project DULCE and work with Deneisha. Deneisha attends every doctor’s visit with the newborns and their families for the first six months. In addition, home visits and telephone check-ins are also scheduled. As stated, the program is not only for the new baby and parents, but the whole family, especially siblings. Deneisha conducts an evaluation to make sure all family members’ medical needs are being met. Parents are also asked questions about the safety of their dwelling and are educated about safety issues such as the importance of smoke detectors in the home and proper, safe storage of firearms in the home.
At six months, the DULCE Family Specialist turns care over to the primary care team at the CL Brumback Healthcare Clinic.
Even in its infancy, Project DULCE’s preliminary results show very positive outcomes. DULCE families are more compliant with vaccinations and more families are consistently staying with CL Brumback Healthcare Clinic for their healthcare needs. Encouraged by these early results, the DULCE team is excited to see what results they will see in the next two years of the program. The goal of the program is to assist at least 100 newborns in the first year.