A federal grant will allow the state to expand a program that provides home visiting services to families with young children at high risk for problems including abuse or neglect, poor maternal or infant health outcomes, childhood injuries, poor school readiness or achievement, and crime and domestic abuse.

The program currently serves about 20,000 families, who receive home visits designed to increase parents’ knowledge of early childhood development and improve parenting practices. The visits are also aimed at detecting developmental delays and health issues early, as well as preventing child abuse and neglect.

The state Department of Public Health will get $27 million over three years to expand the program’s capacity, allowing it to serve another 1,800 families. The services cost about $5,000 a year for each family, according to the department.

According to DPH, about a quarter of the 40,000 babies born in the state each year are in families with at least one significant risk factor for poor health outcomes including developmental and behavioral problems, health issues, learning disabilities and cognitive delays.

“These funds will support home visiting programs in Connecticut that are effective models in protecting the health and safety of our most vulnerable children,” Public Health Commissioner Dr. Jewel Mullen said in a statement. “Home visits by experienced providers give parents the knowledge and skills to support their families and improve health and developmental outcomes for their children.”

The visiting services are available to pregnant women or families with infants and children in New Haven, Hartford, Meriden, Bridgeport, New Britain, East Hartford, Waterbury, Windham, Bristol, Norwich, Bloomfield, Torrington, Winchester, Ansonia, Derby, New London and Putnam.

Connecticut is one of 10 states to receive federal funding to expand or establish home visiting programs. The money was made available through the federal health reform act.

Arielle Levin Becker covered health care for The Connecticut Mirror. She previously worked for The Hartford Courant, most recently as its health reporter, and has also covered small towns, courts and education in Connecticut and New Jersey. She was a finalist in 2009 for the prestigious Livingston Award for Young Journalists, a recipient of a Knight Science Journalism Fellowship and the third-place winner in 2013 for an in-depth piece on caregivers from the National Association of Health Journalists. She is a 2004 graduate of Yale University.

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