Home Visiting Programs Help Struggling Families in Texas
A recent report by ReadyNation outlines how home visiting models like those funded by the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program, or MIECHV, can help families in Texas
I’ve been in the oil and energy industry for more than 30 years, and I know firsthand how ensuring a strong business requires a workforce that has access to support at home in order to thrive in the workplace. I can tell you from experience that early investments are one of the most important parts of building a high-performing workforce.
Unfortunately for many families in Texas, our current investments are not enough. In our state, 19 percent of children live in poverty. Their parents have fewer resources at their disposal than those living in more affluent communities, and, as a result, they are unable to invest in their children’s education. These experiences can have a lasting effect, making it difficult for kids to escape poverty once they reach adulthood, and increasing the probability that another generation will suffer the same difficulties as their parents and grandparents.
Fortunately, there are programs at our disposal that can help break this cycle of poverty. A recent report by ReadyNation outlines how home visiting models like those funded by the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program, or MIECHV, can help.
MIECHV funds evidence-based home-visiting programs that have proven to be powerful tools in helping families build the strong foundations that lead to success later in life, particularly for those who are economically disadvantaged. These programs can benefit two generations at once by providing education and vital support to new parents, helping to guard against unhealthy parenting and child-rearing practices, and empowering parents to achieve better outcomes for themselves and their children.
Through mentorship by trained educators from pregnancy into the first few years of a child’s life, parents can learn strategies to set and achieve education and employment goals that foster healthy behaviors and academic success. Studies have found that at-risk children who participated in home visits score higher on standardized measures of reading, math and language at kindergarten entry and later grades, and are three times more likely to graduate from high school with honors than nonparticipants. This is evidence that home visiting programs can maximize the potential for children in Texas to build a strong foundation for academic success that can help them break out of the cycle of intergenerational poverty.
Home visiting programs have also proven to be critically helpful to parents by reducing the rate of substance abuse in Texas. In our state, nearly eight out of every 100 adults have a substance use disorder. Because of this, substance abuse is the leading contributor to children entering the Child Protective Services, or CPS, system—contributing to two-thirds of cases in Texas. Familial involvement with CPS, particularly if parental custody loss is a result, can have serious and long-lasting implications for the health and well-being of children and families.
Fortunately, in a study of approximately 700 mothers and their children, mothers who received home visiting reported fewer depressive symptoms and were less likely to engage in substance use. Another study, focusing on the Nurse-Family Partnership program, found that participation resulted in fewer CPS reports and substantiations in home-visited groups compared to controls. These findings are proof that high-quality home visiting programs have the potential to benefit parents and children by promoting healthy habits as well as reducing the economic burden on taxpayers by reducing reliance on social welfare programs.
By now, the benefits of home visiting programs to the state of Texas should be obvious. Unfortunately, the program’s ability to impact maternal and child health outcomes is hamstrung by years of level funding, limiting its reach to vulnerable families. Of the 18 million current and expectant parents who could benefit from MIECHV, only 150,000 currently benefit from the program. Even more pressing is the fact that MIECHV is set to expire this September, taking those benefits away from the small fraction of those who currently have access to them.
To bring the power of home visiting to more families and promote improved maternal health outcomes, we need Congress not only to reauthorize MIECHV this year, but to invest more in MIECHV to expand its reach. By expanding the program and increasing its funding, we can help put our children and families on a strong path, increasing their potential to fully participate in building a thriving and prosperous state.
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