Expectant and new mothers in parts of Contra Costa County now can opt to receive more at-home help with parenting.

First 5 Contra Costa has awarded $3.6 million to two nonprofits that will make home visits to pregnant women and families with newborns and toddlers in six Contra Costa communities.

The services will be available in Antioch, Bay Point, Concord, Martinez, Richmond and San Pablo because those cities have a comparatively higher incidence of low-income households, premature births, domestic violence and child abuse.

The organizations Aspiranet and Brighter Beginnings successfully competed for contracts to provide the help: Aspiranet will serve eastern and central Contra Costa County, and Brighter Beginnings will serve Richmond and San Pablo.

Representatives from these outfits will put families in touch with additional social services as well as screen infants and toddlers to ensure that they're developing on schedule.

Although these in-home services aren't new -- First 5 Contra Costa has been providing them for a decade -- clients now will be able to use them longer with money from California's tobacco tax, and more women will get the help before they've had their baby.

The premise is that early intervention can reap benefits down the road, with fewer children dependent on government aid and ending up in the juvenile courts system.

Research has shown that mothers and children tend to be healthier as well, with fewer cases of abuse and neglect and more families in which the parents have jobs.

Contact Rowena Coetsee at 925-779-7141.