[First Five Nebraska Policy Advisor Sara Howard testified before the Lincoln City Council in support of Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird’s proposal to include home visiting in the city’s annual budget. This blog is adapted from Howard’s written testimony.]
Healthy moms and babies are critical to ensuring the long-term success of children and families in our state. Thank you Mayor Gaylor Baird for working to ensure every baby born in Lincoln has the opportunity to receive the supports they need from the moment they come into this world.
Home visiting is an evidence-based model of care that matches families with a trained professional who tailors resources and supports to address the specific needs of each family being served. Caring for a newborn at home is often an isolating experience for new parents. This can be an obstacle to well-being of the entire family. Years of research demonstrate that home-visiting programs are effective in overcoming these obstacles.
Participating in home-visiting programs is known to increase positive parenting techniques and result in fewer calls to the child protective services hotline. Further, children whose families participate in home visiting are more likely to benefit from stronger early learning and cognitive development, as well as stronger math and reading achievement in elementary school.
Home visiting is also remarkably cost effective. Studies show that every dollar invested in home visiting programs can yield a cost savings between $1.80 and $5.70.
3 home-visiting providers
In Nebraska, three main organizations serve families through home visiting: Nebraska-Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (N-MIECHV), Head Start/Early Head Start Collaborative and Sixpence. Together, these organizations deliver home-visiting services in 66 counties throughout the state. Funding for home visiting in Nebraska predominantly, though not exclusively, includes federal funds (MIECHV and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families – TANF), state general funds and private funders. Approximately 1,200 children benefit from these services in Nebraska.
Most home visiting offerings in Nebraska are targeted, restricting access to families who meet specific eligibility requirements. The proposed universal home-visiting model in the mayor’s budget ensures that every family, regardless of circumstance, has the opportunity to receive support right when they need it. No one, whatever their income, background, race, ethnicity or marital status, knows exactly what to do when they bring a baby home. Even if you’ve had a child before, every birth experience and newborn is different. The birth of a baby is a vulnerable time for all families. Offering home visiting to every family and baby can normalize the service, removing a perceived stigma around interventions overall.
Opportunity to screen for maternal depression
In 2020, there were 3,712 births in Lancaster County. Of those, 148 were births to teen mothers and 1,022 were to single-parent households, while 278 of those babies were born with a low birth weight. One area of particular focus for First Five Nebraska is maternal depression and the goal of obtaining universal mental health screenings for new mothers and primary caregivers. About 12% of Nebraska mothers overall self-report post-partum depression, an issue that crosses all socioeconomic and racial boundaries. It is critically important to identify this problem as early as possible. Home visitation offers a highly advantageous opportunity to screen for maternal depression and address it swiftly.
 Karoly, L. A., Greenwood, P. W., Everingham, S. S., Hoube, J., Kilburn, M. R., Rydell, C. P., Sanders, M., & Chiesa, J. (1998). Investing in our children: What we know and don’t know about the costs and benefits of early childhood interventions. RAND Corporation. https://www.rand.org/pubs/monograph_reports/MR898.html
 U.S. Census Data
 2019 Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) report