September 28, 2020

Illinois law enforcement leaders speak out for home visiting

Funding for evidence-based parent-coaching programs "can't get lost in the shuffle"

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon, and Maywood Police Chief Valdimir Talley took a stand last week for increased funding for a key crime prevention program in Illinois.

The law enforcement leaders expressed concern over a rise in child abuse and neglect cases during the COVID pandemic. State’s Attorney McMahon’s jurisdiction — Kane County — has seen a 27% increase in such cases over the total of cases in 2019… with three and half months yet to go in this year. Child abuse and neglect, McMahon pointed out, have repercussions that can last for generations. “A national study,” said McMahon, citing a new Fight Crime: Invest in Kids report, has found that children who have experienced abuse and neglect are twice as likely to commit a crime by the time they reach the age of 19. Any strategy we’re going to implement to snap that multi-generational cycle of violence needs to start with getting parents the support they need.“

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart concurred that "prevention is the key.” He said, “Furthermore, the best forms of prevention — and the ones that give you the biggest bang for the buck — are high-quality early childhood programs. The evidence shows: If we focused more public investments on those first five years of life, when the human brain is developing at its fastest rate, we’d see healthier families, and less crime.”

Dart praised home visiting — voluntary parent-coaching programs for mothers and fathers prior to or during the first three years of their child’s life. These are evidence-based strategies with proven benefits for families facing adverse conditions, he said: improved long-term academic and health outcomes for children, and a reduction in reported cases of child maltreatment.

Maria Medina, a teen mom who has received home visiting services from DuPage County’s Teen Parent Connection, joined the law enforcement leaders in the online news conference. She described the effect of the program in her life: “It was too good to be true, honestly. I didn’t know there was an organization out there willing to help a young parent strive to be a better parent and do better in the world, to be honest with you.”

Fight Crime: Invest in Kids State Director Tim Carpenter said that state funding for these programs — like the one that benefited Medina and her family — had remained stagnant for several years. Fight Crime: Invest in Kids supports the recommendation of the Illinois Prenatal to Three Initiative (PN3) to expand home visiting services to reach an additional 15,000 children and families over the next five years, he added. Carpenter also expressed support for the bipartisan Illinois Early Childhood Funding Commission, which is crafting proposals for a more stable and equitable system of early care and education in the state, including home visiting services.

Dart acknowledged that, with state and local budgets strapped due to the COVID pandemic, Congressional action might be necessary to increase needed investments in children and families. "Our federal partners have to get actively engaged in helping us,” he said. “There’s no realistic way… we can do that without federal support. So while that debate is going back and forth in Washington, about whether they should send money to the states or not… Without those types of interventions, so many different things are going to be collapsing.”

The new research report from Fight Crime is entitled Reducing Child Abuse and Neglect Through Evidence-Based Home Visiting: Parent-coaching programs in Illinois improve academic and health outcomes. It quickly received the support of other law enforcement leaders, including Riverside Police Chief Tom Weitzel…

…and Naperville Chief Robert Marshall.

Illinois advocates for investments in early childhood programs also joined the chorus:

For more, here is a five-minute "highlight reel” of the Fight Crime: Invest in Kids press conference:

And here it is in its entirety:

Pictured in the photo at the top of the page: Tim Carpenter, Illinois State Director of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids; Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon; Cook County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon; Rosy Barrera, Family Support Specialist for DuPage County’s Teen Parent Connection; Maria Medina, a participant in the Healthy Families Illinois program; and Maywood Police Chief Valdimir Talley.

States

  1. Illinois