Connecting with Families: Turning Interest into Action

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Connecting with Families: Turning Interest into Action

< 1 minute read

University of Illinois at Chicago’s Division of Specialized Care for Children created Interest Cards to reach more families and improve care coordination.

The Issue

University of Illinois at Chicago’s Division of Specialized Care for Children (DSCC) has a regional office in Peoria, a city that is home to a well-known children’s hospital that cares for many children eligible for DSCC’s programs. Many of these children are referred to DSCC for assistance but often not until the child is older. DSCC’s care coordination teams believe it is vital that these children are referred to our programs as soon as soon after birth as possible, especially those with critical cardiac conditions. DSCC’s Peoria staff had developed relationships with the hospital’s nurses and social workers and presented about our programs numerous times. However, they recognized that hospital staff members are busy with their own heavy workloads; therefore, we wanted to create a tool to help boost referrals for these families. Our staff also recognized the need for families’ privacy during the emotional time following the birth of a child with special health care needs.


DSCC partners with Illinois families and communities to help children with special healthcare needs connect to services and resources. DSCC has provided this vital support to families for 80 years, giving our families a consistent helping hand to guide and support them through their child’s journey with a diagnosis.

DSCC is a state program that receives federal Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant funds to serve families with children and youth, from birth to age 21, who have eligible medical conditions. Families who care for youth and adults who are medically fragile, dependent on technology for their wellbeing and require in-home nursing receive support through the Home Care Program. Our staff includes nurses, social workers, audiologists, speech-language pathologists and other healthcare professionals in 12 regional offices across the state who work directly with families in their geographic area.

DSCC’s vision is that children and youth with special healthcare needs and their families are at the center of a seamless support system that improves the quality of their lives. Our coordination is free and tailored to each child and family’s situation to ensure all providers, services and resources are working together to promote the child’s health, happiness and long-term success.

What We Tried

DSCC’s Peoria staff decided to create an “Interest Card” that could be placed in a common area that parents would normally visit during their hospital stay.  The card was placed in a holder and next to DSCC’s brochure.  If a family is interested in speaking with us, they can simply fill out the card with their name and contact information and slip it into a locked container that DSCC provided. Our Peoria staff periodically check the box for possible referrals and aim to follow up with the family before their child is discharged from the hospital.

Peoria Interest Card


The referral rate from this hospital saw a significant improvement in terms of the timeliness of the referral. In the first six months of implementing the “Interest Card” collection, 15 new families were enrolled as a direct result of this outreach program. Previously, the office would receive only one or two referrals from this hospital on a good month during a typical six-month period. Each of these newly enrolled children were less than one month of age. Our Peoria staff followed up in a timely manner, informed the families of our services, helped them fill out DSCC’s application and enrolled them in our program. Most of these families were eligible for financial assistance with their child’s surgeries, medication and equipment.  Additionally, many more families were made aware of DSCC and our services.


Make an effort to routinely visit local hospitals and speak with those in charge to build a relationship. People to connect with include head nurses, social workers, or any personnel that can offer some type of linkage to families with newborns in need of services.

Program Challenges: Communicating with Patients

Topics: Patient engagement

Collaborator (Non-Members): Peoria Regional Manager Kriss Simmons, Care Coordinator Sarah Kelly and Program Coordinator Assistant Dawn Lingenfelter, University of Illinois at Chicago’s Division of Specialized Care for Children (DSCC)

Organizational Background

Organization Name: Aurora Health Care

Location: 5900 South Lake Drive, Cudahy, WI, United States

Organization Type: Hospital