Home Visiting Supports a Safer Iowa
Carroll County Attorney urges Congress to reauthorize federal MIECHV funding stream
Crime prevention starts at home. As the Carroll County Attorney, I’m always looking for ways to improve the safety of our community. One proven strategy to build long-term public safety is investing in resources that support our youngest Iowans. One of these crime-fighting resources is voluntary home visiting programs.
Voluntary home visiting consists of services that connect trained professionals like nurses, parent educators, or social workers to high-priority families with young children to offer support at the beginning of a child’s life. This support can include linkages to resources that improve family self-sufficiency, as well as coaching on healthy parenting, child safety, and nutrition. Services like home visiting can reduce and prevent child maltreatment and neglect by helping to foster a safe and nurturing home for young families to thrive.
From a family perspective, home visiting programs are a huge help to new parents as they navigate this new chapter of their lives. I am a proud father of three and grandfather of two. I know firsthand that parenting is not easy, but home visiting can help alleviate some of the challenges. Parents who opt in to these programs are less likely to abuse substances and more likely to have increased financial independence, leading to a more positive environment for their kids.
From a law enforcement perspective, home visiting programs are an unexpected, but important crime prevention tool. This is because voluntary home visits operate as a key early intervention that help set children up for future achievement. Educational attainment is an important predictor of future success, as 60 percent of incarcerated persons nationwide do not have a high school diploma. Children who are involved in these programs are typically better prepared for kindergarten, achieve higher test scores, and have greater long-term academic success.
Many of these programs are made possible by federal support. Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) is a federal funding stream that supports voluntary, evidence-based home visiting programs across the country. Congress established MIECHV in 2010 in order to provide families from vulnerable populations with these vital, evidence-based programs.
According to a just-released fact sheet from Council for a Strong America, over 30,000 Iowan families qualify as high-priority for MIECHV-funded home visits, but only a little over three percent of this group were able to access the services they need. Part of this scarcity is due to the fact that MIECHV has not seen a funding increase since its inception. With more resources available, home visiting professionals could be adequately compensated, reach families in more rural areas of our state, as well as provide virtual visits for those in need.
Another issue: MIECHV is set to expire on December 16th without congressional intervention. We cannot allow this to happen. If we want to see a long-term reduction in crime, we need to start as early as possible. Speaking as a prosecutor, I would much rather invest in early interventions than see more young people involved in the criminal justice system later on.
We need to treat the cause, not just the symptoms of crime. We should be doing everything in our power to give kids every opportunity to lead fulfilling, crime-free lives. That effort begins at birth. That’s why I’m calling on our federal lawmakers to renew MIECHV and expand the program to more effectively serve the kids who need it most.