The Arkansas Department of Health was awarded more than $7.78 million recently by the Health Resources and Services Administration to continue funding the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program.

The program allows nurses to offer in-home services to women during pregnancy and to parents with young children up to kindergarten entry.

"Home visiting can be a real game-changer," Bradley Planey, Family Health Branch Chief and Home Visiting Project director at ADH, said in a news release. "The programs work to improve children's health, development and school readiness. They also support families with health screenings, referrals to resources, parenting advice and guidance in many other areas of family life. This can mean a big difference in the life of the child and family."

The ADH implements the Nurse-Family Partnership program in Arkansas and also partners with Arkansas Children's Hospital to carry out four other programs: Healthy Families America, HIPPY, Parents as Teachers and a home-visiting approach called Following Baby Back Home.

Families in 55 counties are served by the grant through 27 local managing agencies and seven of ADH's local health units.

In 2017, Arkansas's Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Programs served 4,982 participants in 2,492 households and Arkansas' federally funded home visitors provided 31,228 home visits. In 2017, 90.5 percent of households served by Arkansas' childhood visiting program were low-income, the release adds. About 35 percent of the homes had someone with what is considered "low-student achievement," and 27.5 percent included a child with developmental delays or disabilities.