LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - An initiative in Arkansas is helping babies become more mentally developed early on in their lives. The Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation is partnering with Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families to help parents be better prepared for raising their children.
The Foundation recently gave the state an $80,000 grant. The money will go to the Arkansas Home Visiting Campaign, an initiative that helps parents get ready for parenthood before their baby arrives.
Paul Kelly with the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families says that within the first 18 months after a child is born, 90% of her metabolic energy goes toward brain development.
"It is a critical time to make sure that children have all of the supports, the sense of security, the warmth, the nurturing, the right foods, the right interventions," Kelly said.
By visiting at-risk homes, Arkansas Home Visiting Campaign is intended to ensure coordination and delivery of health, development, early learning, child abuse and neglect prevention and family support services to children and families in at-risk communities.
Some of the primary programs associated with the campaign include Healthy Families America, Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters, Nurse Family Partnership and Parents as Teachers.
Once the campaign is in place, organizers will evaluate the programs to see how they are performing and how they can reach more families.
"(We would) measure, not just how many times they talk to somebody, but actually how did this improve literacy skills," Kelly said. "(We'll ask) how did this prevent future childhood abuse and neglect. Did this improve health outcomes?"
Right now, Kelly says the programs are reaching only two percent of families who need this assistance.
AACF hopes the research initiative can help the non-profit organization be more competitive and receive national funding. If that happened, the group could reach even more families in need in the state.
So far this year, Arkansas has been awarded more than $6 million to support home visits.