Harrisburg, PA (WENY)-- A Department of Human Services Program helping new moms and moms with special-needs infants is expanding. These families will now receive two home visits at no cost to help with the transition into parenthood. Pennsylvania’s Department of Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller says this major expansion for the home visitor program will provide a support system for families as they welcome a new child.

“A home visitor can be that resource that helps parents monitor and gauge their child’s progress because as we know if you have kids, they grow so fast,” Miller explains.

Under this expansion, physical health managed care organizations, or MCOs, that participate in the state’s Medicaid program will establish an evidence-based, standardized Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visitation program. The program will provide new parents and parents with additional risk factors with two home visits at no cost. Depending on how the visits go, if the family needs extra support, they may be referred to other home visiting programs to continue the services.

“These home visits will teach parents about infant development, assess social indicators of health like housing and food access that can affect child development and overall health, and identify whether additional supports are needed,” Miller says.

Home visitors will identify strengths and needs, and provide services tailored to those needs. Home visitors will also provide parents with a wide variety of information like breastfeeding, safe sleep practices, injury prevention, and nutrition. Studies conducted in the past on this topic show positive impacts on both baby and parents. Secretary Miller says this program doesn’t stop after the visits.

“The physical health MCO will continue to follow up with the parents to identify and resolve any barriers to ensure progress is made in obtaining all referred services to best support the need of the family,” says Miller.

The home visiting expansion will go into effect January 1st, 2020, and eligible new parents will begin receiving home visiting services by July 1st.