Kelly Crane has worked in the field of prevention and child welfare for more than 20 years and is the state policy specialist for Prevent Child Abuse America, a national organization dedicated to preventing child abuse and neglect. Healthy Families America is their signature home visiting program. She testified in support of LB114 before the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee.
Increasing funding for evidence-based home visitation in Nebraska can open new opportunities under the newly reauthorized Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting program (MIECHV). MIECHV supports evidence-based, early childhood home visiting across the country. Healthy Families America (HFA) is one of the models that meets the evidence requirements for support from MIECHV.
The MIECHV program was reauthorized by Congress in December 2022 through the Jackie Walorski Maternal and Child Home Visiting Reauthorization Act. The program has a long history of bipartisan support, including during this recent reauthorization. The bill was carefully crafted by members of Congress working across the aisle. Nebraska Congressman Adrian Smith helped lead the effort. Prior to the bill going to the House floor, Representative Smith testified saying, “Unlike most federal social welfare programs, we know what outcomes taxpayers can expect from our investments in MIECHV because funding is only provided for models and interventions that have proven results.” He went on to say, “[MIECHV is] fact-based and evidence based, and I think it’s a model for other parts of government.”
We had the pleasure of meeting with Representative Smith and the Healthy Families Panhandle program during the reauthorization process. His understanding of and passion for this work was evident and we are grateful for his strong support and leadership.
The bill passed the House with an overwhelming bipartisan vote, 390 yeas and 26 nays. All three Nebraska Representatives voted yes, and ultimately it was signed into law at the end of last year.
Two significant changes
The reauthorization made two significant changes to MIECHV program funding. First, it created a new consistent funding formula for states. Based on this new formula, it is estimated that Nebraska’s base grant through MIECHV will increase from $1.2 million to $1.7 million.
It also created a new federal/state match structure. The match was spearheaded by Congressional Republicans to provide an opportunity for states that want to invest in these valuable services for their families and children. The proposed funding increase in LB114 would ensure that Nebraska maximizes and leverages this new federal opportunity.
The federal/state match begins in FFY25. States will have access to the federal match funding with a 25% state match; so, for every $1 in state investment in MIECHV-eligible programming, there will be a $3 federal contribution. The amount of federal funding available for state match will gradually increase over four years. By FFY28, if Nebraska can meet the maximum state match—estimated to be around $850,000—the state has the potential to leverage approximately $2.5 million more in federal funding.
The state match must be above an established maintenance of effort that, like the match, was developed to be advantageous to states. In this case the maintenance of effort is established based on non-federal, MIECHV-eligible spending by the MIECHV-lead agency. For Nebraska, it is estimated that the maintenance of effort will be $1.1 million, which is currently included in the Governor Pillen’s budget.
Rigorous studies show benefits
Expansion of home visiting through the proposed dedicated funds coupled with the opportunities provided to Nebraska through the recent MIECHV reauthorization will have a positive impact on children, families and communities throughout the state. HFA strengthens parent-child relationships, promotes healthy child development, and enhances family well-being. It is an evidence-based two-generation model that demonstrates powerful results. For example, rigorous studies show HFA results in fewer low-birth-weight babies, reduction in the recurrent of maltreatment, and fewer HFA children have behavioral issues or receive special education services. In addition, fewer HFA families are homeless, and we see increased participation in education and training, more positive mental health, and lower parenting stress for HFA moms.
I commend and support Nebraska’s effort to expand evidence-based home visiting to reach more families who are facing challenges to help their children grow up in healthy environments and fulfill their potential. These dedicated investments for parents of young children will pay off throughout families’ lifetimes and will benefit Nebraska families, children, and communities.
Read more about Nebraska MIECHV
Read more about home visiting in Nebraska
Read more about MIECHV reauthorization
Read State Senator Wendy DeBoer’s guest blog post on LR367, her interim study on home visiting in Nebraska
Read more about LB114