A federal-state partnership that supports family- and child-related home visiting programs in every state is slated to expire October 1, threatening a host of programs that are effective at strengthening high-risk families and saving money over the long run, according to a paper we issued today with the Center for Law and Social Policy.
The Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV) targets high-risk families who are most likely to benefit from intensive home visiting services, through which trained professionals (often nurses, social workers, or parent educators) help parents acquire the skills to promote their children’s development. MIECHV provides the federal funds, while states and localities implement the programs. Congress provided $400 million for MIECHV this year.
When Congress created MIECHV in 2010, it authorized and funded the program for five years (fiscal years 2010 through 2014). If Congress doesn’t extend MIECHV by September 30, when fiscal year 2014 ends, no new federal funds will be available.
Research shows that home visiting programs promote children’s health and development and improve parenting skills while cutting the number of children in the social welfare, mental health, and juvenile corrections systems, with considerable cost savings for states.
MIECHV funds have spurred important innovations. For example, Iowa expanded home visiting to 15 at-risk, underserved communities and is taking steps to improve program quality and coordination, such as creating a statewide data collection system and requiring state certification for all home visiting and family support practitioners.
Failure to extend MIECHV would have unfortunate consequences for communities in every state. Fewer families in at-risk communities would be served, and states may have to end efforts to improve data collection and assessment and strengthen coordination across programs. Moreover, states — and the nation — would lose the opportunity to build the evidence base for these effective programs and expand them.