It was created by the Duke Center for Child and Family Policy in partnership with the Durham County Health Department and the Center for Child & Family Health.

The seeds of Durham Connects date back to 2001 when representatives of The Duke Endowment approached Kenneth Dodge, the founding director of the Duke Center for Child and Family Policy. They challenged Dodge to improved child outcomes in Durham and, more specifically, to reduce and prevent child abuse and neglect. 

A host of community partners decided the best way to prevent child maltreatment and help children in Durham get a good start would be to support all families - regardless of socioeconomic status - from the very beginning. Durham Connects was piloted in 2008 as a universal home visiting program with the goal of creating a replicable model that could be used in other communities. 

The program has been studied in two rigorous randomized controlled trials, the results of which have been published in highly-regarded journals including Pediatrics and the American Journal of Public Health.

Observations by researchers found that by the time a baby was six months old, families participating in Durham Connects had: 

  • Greater community connections: Durham Connects families reported greater connections to community resources.
  • Better utilization of higher quality child care: When using center-based care, Durham Connects families utilized higher quality care, as rated by the North Carolina 5-Star Child Care Rating System.
  • Higher-quality parenting behaviors: Durham Connects mothers reported significantly more positive parenting behaviors with their infant, such as, hugging and reading. Researchers, who were unaware of which families they were observing had been enrolled in Durham Connects, also found that mothers in the program provided higher-quality parenting, such as sensitivity to, and acceptance of, the infant.
  • Enhanced home environments: Researchers found Durham Connects families had higher quality home environments when it came to such factors as safety, books, toys and learning materials.
  • Improved mother mental health: Durham Connects mothers were 28 percent less likely to report possible clinical anxiety.
  • Reduced emergency medical care for infants: Durham Connects mothers reported 34 percent less total infant emergency medical care. Research shows that decrease is sustained through age 2.

Return on Investment

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For each $1 in program costs, the Durham Connects program yielded $3.02 in savings in emergency health care costs.

Based on the findings, researchers estimate that for cities of a similar size averaging about 3,187 births a year, an annual investment of $2.2 million in nurse home visiting would result in a community health care cost savings of about $7 million in the first two years of a child’s life.