Extensive research has shown us that children’s earliest experiences build the foundation that affects them for the rest of their lives. Parents are their children’s first and best caregivers and teachers during these early years, but they sometimes struggle with issues that impact their parenting, ranging from postpartum depression to addiction to financial challenges and more.
Home-visiting programs are one option that can positively influence the health, education and well-being of an entire family. These programs provide necessary supports for parents by matching them with trained professionals, such as nurses, social workers and educators, who tailor resources to address the specific needs of each family being served. Participating in home visiting increases positive parenting techniques, and children whose families participate in home visiting are more likely to benefit from stronger early learning and cognitive development and stronger math and reading achievement in school.
Countless Nebraskans have been helped by home visiting, many of them through programs funded by Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV).
MIECHV is a voluntary, evidence-based federal grant program in all 50 states serving families from the prenatal period until children enter kindergarten. MIECHV must be reauthorized every five years, and its current funding cycle ends September 30. A bipartisan bill, the Jackie Walorski Maternal and Child Home Visiting Reauthorization Act of 2022, has been introduced in Congress to reauthorize MIECHV and was voted out of the House Ways and Means Committee. We’d like to thank Nebraska Rep. Adrian Smith (Dist. 3) for co-sponsoring the bill, and urge its adoption so programs in Nebraska and nationally can remain open, providing parents access to services they need to help their children thrive.
Bill increases base funding
The reauthorization bill increases the base funding for states by $100 million beginning in fiscal year 2023 and includes provisions to allow virtual visits to reach more families, particularly in rural areas; dedicated funding to help retain the home-visiting workforce; and expanded access for eligible families, including those in tribal communities.
MIECHV is the funding source for Healthy Families America home-visiting, which operates in seven Nebraska communities and served 552 families between October 2020 and March 2022. Locations are selected based on “priority counties” identified in a statewide needs assessment. When the program began in the state in 2010, 17 Nebraska counties were identified, and in 2020, that number increased to 31.
With available funding, communities decide if home visiting is the right fit for their needs and whether they have the capacity to start or enhance a home-visiting program. Through this planning process, community members choose the approved model that best fits their priorities.
Outcomes and program performance are measured at the family level through 19 indicators, and Nebraska MIECHV must be able to prove positive movement every three years. Home visitors regularly use screening tools to assess a number of factors, including maternal depression; child’s physical, emotional and social development; family strengths and needs; substance use; home safety; safe sleep environment; relationship violence; maltreatment risk; and parent-child interaction.
Read Sara Howard’s blog post: Home visiting benefits babies, families