Acute illness in early childhood generates chronic anxiety in parents, which may manifest itself in part by inappropriate use of health care. To minimize this and the development of other psychosocial sequelae associated with neonatal illness, a family support system (FSS) was developed and implemented in a neonatal intensive care unit. The effectiveness of the FSS was assessed by the evaluation of emergency room and inpatient hospital service utilization in 80 patients born before, and 90 patients born after the institution of the program. At the outset, the groups had similar medical and social characteristics. There was no difference between the two groups in the utilization of emergency services in the first year after discharge. However, during the second year the control group used the emergency room twice as often as the study group did (P less than 0.025). During the first 2 years, half of the control group was readmitted, compared with less than a third of the study group (P less than 0.005). Overall, after discharge from the neonatal intensive care unit the control group spent an average of 9 days per patient in hospital, compared with a mean of 3 days per patient in the study group (P less than 0.025). It appears, therefore, that the FSS may be an effective way to reduce some of the psychosocial sequelae of illness in newborn infants requiring intensive care.