On Friday, January 12, Montana DPHHS announced that a new program called the “First Years Initiative” would be putting to use nearly $300,000 of federal funds. Montana DPHHS Deputy Director Laura Smith outlines the initiative’s goals.

"One of our goals is to braid together our existing resources to serve children at those early stages, with early intervention opportunities," Smith said. In the last year, the year ending in December of 2017, 10 of the 14 fatalities involved children under the age of one, and that's not acceptable to us."

Smith says the groundwork is being laid right now to create home visitor positions that will work directly with families that have been involved in Child Abuse and Neglect cases.

"They do everything from linking pregnant women with prenatal care, to teaching home safety and parenting skills, promoting strong parent-child attachment: these are professionals who provide a wide variety of services," Smith said. "The first piece of the First Years Initiative is identifying and providing federal funding for five home visitors for communities across the state."

The first five communities are still under consideration and it is unclear where or exactly when the home visitors will start knocking on doors, but Smith says they will be in place this year.

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