Blog | March 14, 2017

How Home Visiting Increases the Health and Wellness of our Communities

A police chief and sheriff in Nebraska make the case for reauthorizing the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting program (MIECHV)

Approximately 3,500 children experience abuse or neglect each year in Nebraska. In our more than 50 combined years of law enforcement, we have seen many difficult scenarios involving these children. What is not immediately visible in these situations, is that there are longer-term repercussions to child abuse and neglect. Children who are abused and neglected are twice as likely to become involved in crime later in life. However, if we reach out to families early, many child abuse and neglect cases are preventable. Guidance and support provided by advisors to parents in the early years of a child’s life can make all the difference.

In voluntary home visiting, a coaching relationship between young parents and trained experts is developed. A professional who specializes in early childhood issues partners with parents to lay a strong foundation for the child’s success. In home visiting, new moms and dads receive counseling and support on a range of critical parenting skills from pregnancy through the first years of the child’s life.

Often times, it is everyday situations that are the greatest stressors of new parents. Having knowledge of what action to take when a baby will not stop crying, guidance for when a child is teething, proper sleeping positions, how to childproof a home; new parents often stumble and need help. Infants do not come with instruction manuals and coaching of vital daily skills increases the child’s chance of good health and wellness.

The program, known as the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program, is not only common sense but evidence-based. MIECHV allocates 75 percent of funding to proven home visiting programs and 25 percent to promising programs undergoing rigorous evaluation. Ways & Means Human Resources Subcommittee Chairman Adrian Smith noted the effectiveness of these models in improving family outcomes in a hometown site visit with Healthy Families America.

The benefits are far reaching, extending from family to community, with a demonstrable fiscal impact. A study of the Early Head Start program found that mothers who received home visits increased their earnings by $3,600 a year, likely because the program helped connect them with education and jobs. As a result of crime reductions and other outcomes, a cost-benefit analysis by the Nurse-Family Partnership found that high-quality home visiting programs achieve average savings of $6,000 for each family served, and welfare savings of $14,500 per family over a decade.

Home visiting is more than just a solution for one family, or one at-risk child. It is a solution for communities here in Nebraska, and across the country. This fall, Congress must act to reauthorize MIECHV and make decisions about its funding moving forward. We urge all representatives to contemplate the value of preventing abuse and neglect, preventing crime, and increasing the health and wellness of our communities. It is working here in Nebraska.

John Smith is Chief of the Harvard Police Department and Sheriff Millard Gustafson of the Gage County Sheriff’s Office.


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