Guest blog by Mary Ellen Cunningham, Bureau of Women’s and Children’s Health

All new parents have experienced a version of this thought when they bring home their helpless, tiny newborn:  “I have no idea what I am doing.”  We also know now how terribly important those first years are for baby.  The brain development in the first years lays the foundation for the rest of their lives.

Parenting is rewarding, confusing, fantastic and frustrating all in the very same moment.  For any family, but especially a new family, having the right mix of supports and resource information can make all the difference for both the parent and the child.

We have all sorts of scientific evidence now about how physical health is affected by your genes, your family and your environment and that protective factors like attentive, nurturing parenting can make a great difference.  Home visiting, a program where a professional or paraprofessional works directly with the family in the safe environment of their own home, provides the kind of support needed to make sure children get that healthy start, which is the foundation of a healthy life.

Home visitors provide guidance and resource information on breast feeding and child nutrition.  Home visitors can also help families create a safe environment for their children, helping families understand how to prevent childhood injury, correctly “baby proof” a home and how to correctly install a car seat as well as how to correctly secure a child in that seat.

Home visiting services are best delivered and most impactful when agencies coordinate and collaborate on provision.  The Arizona Departments of Economic Security and Education, along with First Things First are working collaboratively with us through an Inter Agency Leadership Team to increase awareness of and expand access to home visiting.  You can find more information about Arizona’s early childhood home visiting alliance, StrongFamiliesArizona on the web site.  I invite you to view a similar blog from the DES Director Clarence Carter.