A key component of MOMS Orange County’s home visitation program and group education classes is infant health and development. In 2000, as a result of client focus groups revealing the concern clients had about their baby’s normal development and future school readiness, MOMS infant health and development interventions were developed which includes educating parents on early brain development, modeling positive play activities for early brain stimulation, screening infants for achievements of developmental milestones, and referring infants with delays for appropriate medical intervention. With funding from the Children & Families Commission of Orange County, MOMS was able to enhance its already successful health care coordination model by extending services until the baby’s first birthday and by incorporating infant development screenings, education, and referrals into the home visitation model.
Throughout the baby’s first year of life, MOMS Maternal-Child Health Coordinators (Home Visitors) screen for normal growth and development during each monthly home visit. At four months, eight months and twelve months of age, the babies are formally screened for achievement of developmental milestones. Developmental milestones are tasks most children learn, or physical developments, that commonly appear in certain age ranges. Skills such as rolling over, grasping for a toy, and taking a first step are called developmental milestones. Children reach milestones in how they play, learn, speak, behave, and move (crawling, walking, etc.). Those identified as at risk for a potential delay are immediately referred for a comprehensive medical and development assessment. (Click here for a video of a MOMS infant developmental assessment).
Also during the visit, age appropriate activities are demonstrated to parents to help stimulate the baby’s mental and physical development. Parents are also provided with information on what to expect in their babies’ health and development and they learn age-appropriate activities to stimulate mental and physical growth. Infant development tool kits are provided to each family for use over the baby’s first year of life to enhance early brain development and fine motor skills.
In addition to the in-home developmental screenings and education services, mothers and their babies are invited to attend MOMS Mommy & Me program, infant development workshops (for infants 0-5 months, 6-11 months, and 12-24 months) that train and empower mothers to lead their own infant development play groups. Age appropriate activities that promote healthy infant development are demonstrated in a fun and creative environment and the group dynamic among parents and babies allows for social, interactive learning. After graduating from the Mommy & Me program, mothers are provided with infant development curriculum and guidance from MOMS staff to conduct weekly play groups in their local neighborhoods.
Poverty has a direct impact on early brain development. Early identification of children with developmental, physical, and mental concerns is crucial because it leads to early treatment, reducing the impact of developmental and behavioral disorders that have high costs and long-term consequences for our health, education, welfare, and justice systems. MOMS successful outcomes have shown that it brings children in a highly disadvantaged population to health and developmental levels exceeding those of the general U.S. population. MOMS works closely with its client families to not only work towards a healthy birth but to grow a baby that is strong, healthy and ready to learn!