State Senator Wendy DeBoer, District 10, introduced LR367, an interim study examining home visiting for Nebraska families, during the 2022 legislative session. She testified on LR367 at a hearing before the Nebraska Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee on December 2.
Home visiting is an evidence-based service that supports the health and well-being of families with young children. It is voluntary, free for families and cost-effective. Home-visiting programs pair young families with trained professionals who tailor services to meet the family’s specific needs. These trained professionals can be nurses, social workers, peers and more, and they work to form trusting relationships with families to help them reach their goals in child development, family health, parent-child relationships, school readiness and more.
Outcomes associated with home-visiting participants include that they:
- Are more likely to be enrolled in school and more likely to be employed
- Are more likely to access prenatal care
- Have fewer Child Protective Services reports (calls to the hotline)
- Are less likely to need emergency medical care
- Are more likely to start breastfeeding and to breastfeed longer
- Engage in more positive parenting techniques, such as more reading time between parents and children, compared with families not enrolled in home visiting
Outcomes associated with children enrolled in home-visiting programs include that they:
- Have improved early language and cognitive development
- Have greater math and reading achievement in elementary school
- Have reduced absentee rates and suspensions compared with children not enrolled in home visiting.
26 different models
Here is what can be confusing about home visiting: There are 26 different evidence-based models of home visiting in use across the country, with only a handful of them being implemented in Nebraska. Each model varies in the professional requirements of the home visitor, the length of service, the type of curriculum utilized and eligibility requirements. The goal is to connect a family with the best and most appropriate model to meet their needs. For example, if you are new mother coming home from the hospital with your baby, the Durham Family Connects model may fit your needs best because it connects you with a nurse who conducts home visits focused on the health of you and your baby. Or, if you are a family who is at risk for involvement in the child welfare system, the Healthy Families America program might be a better fit because it is more intensive with weekly visits.
History of home visiting in Nebraska
Home visiting has a long history in Nebraska. In fact, if you speak with our public health departments, they were conducting home visits for new mothers decades ago, a practice that was lost in an era of budget cuts. The first legislative effort in the Unicameral was in 2007, when then State Senator Gwen Howard passed a bill to allocate $600,000 for nurse home-visiting services. This line item has remained in the budget bills annually and has since increased to $1.1 million.
In 2010, the federal government created the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program, or MIECHV, which was authorized for five years and sent base allocations of funding to states to increase access to home-visiting services. The MIECHV program has consistently been reauthorized due to broad bipartisan support on the federal level and is anticipated to be reauthorized again in December of this year.
Home-visiting programs in the state of Nebraska are doing incredibly important work for our youngest children and families. Often called the “silver bullet” for child abuse prevention, a robust and coordinated home-visiting network in Nebraska can not only improve outcomes overall for children, but particularly for those who are at risk of court involvement.