A new report from the Prenatal-to-3 Policy Impact Center examines whether states implement certain evidence-based policies to promote infant and toddler health and finds that Arkansas implements three of the five policies the center recommends .
The report praised Arkansas for implementing policies including expanding health insurance coverage, reducing the administrative burden of food assistance in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and a minimum wage of at least $10 an hour. Arkansas has yet to implement two other policies recommended by the center, at least six weeks of paid family leave and a refundable income tax credit.
Now in its third year, the report provides guidance on the investments states can make to help children thrive. In addition to the five policies listed above, the report proposes strategies to achieve measurable goals, including access to needed services, adequate family resources, and nurturing and responsive child care in a safe environment (see full list).
Arkansas expanded Medicaid eligibility for adults in 2014 and was one of 39 states to do so. The state also has several policies that reduce the administrative burden for SNAP participants: 12-month recertification updates, streamlined reporting, and an online application for most families. Arkansas also has a minimum wage of $11 an hour; it is one of two southern states (the other being Florida, which has a minimum wage of $10 an hour) with a minimum wage rate higher than the federal standard of $7.25 an hour.
The report also recommends six strategies states can adopt to improve children’s health. According to the report, no state has adopted all six strategies, but 21 states have adopted one or more of them, which are:
- Comprehensive screening and linking procedures.
- Childcare allowance.
- Group prenatal care.
- Evidence-Based Home Visiting Program.
- get up early.
- Early Intervention Services.
Arkansas’ State Strategy Snapshot:
- In 2021, families in Arkansas will have access to one of three evidence-based comprehensive needs screening and connection programs (DULCE, HealthySteps and Family Connects).
- Only one state (California) offers all three programs to families. Twenty-one states offer at least one of these programs, and 23 states offer none.
- Arkansas’ child care reimbursement rate covers 63.7 percent of the true cost of center-based care for infants.
- In 2021, Arkansas will serve pregnant women at only one group prenatal care site.
- Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee also only have one location for group prenatal care, though several states with smaller populations than Arkansas offer multiple locations, including Maine, Hawaii and Oklahoma.
- In 2019, the Home Visiting Program served approximately 2.5 percent of children under age 3 in households with incomes below 150 percent of the federal poverty level ($37,650 per year for a family of four).
- In the top performing state (Iowa), 1% of income-eligible children received a home visitation program, while in the worst performing state (Nevada), only 0.8% of income-eligible children received a home visitation plan.
- In 2019, 7 percent of the state’s income-eligible infants and toddlers participated in the Early Head Start program.
- The best performer was the District of Columbia, with 31 percent of income-eligible children receiving Early Head Start programs. In the worst performing state (Tennessee), only 3.8% of income-eligible children received Early Head Start.
- Nine percent of the state’s birth-to-three population received early intervention services within a year (2020-2021), putting the state last on this measure of all states (including the District of Columbia).
Arkansas’ Medicaid expansion program, Arkansas Health and My Opportunity, or ARHOME, includes programmatic efforts to improve maternity care. Under the Maternal Life360 Home program, hospitals designated as Life360 Homes will contract with providers to provide home visits to women with high-risk pregnancies for up to two years after the baby is born. In 2021, ARHOME will have 12,500 women diagnosed with high-risk pregnancies.