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The state of Virginia has been awarded a federal grant to expand a home visitation program for at-risk families called the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting project.
State officials estimate that thousands of families need the services. Project Manager Linda Foster says a number of indicators help identify at-risk communities.
"Anything from low birth weight, infant mortality, to child abuse and neglect data, substance use, domestic violence," Foster says. "It's a variety of data."
The visits by nurses and others begin during pregnancy to promote healthy nutrition and behavior. Foster says success can be measured by how many newborns subsequently do not need intensive care. Visits continue through early childhood.
"Through solid, long-term research, we know that home visiting develops strong relationships between parents and children, safer and more stimulating home environments for children, child well-being and family self-sufficiency, and that this program really makes a difference in the lives of children and their parents," Foster says. "And it helps to insure that the child enters school healthy and ready to learn."
The program mentors parents, who then help their children to change unhealthy, multi-generational habits, Foster says.