Oregon Law Enforcement Leaders Champion Home Visiting to Reduce Crime
Quality home-visiting programs reduce child abuse and neglect, in turn decreasing the risk of future crime
A host of Oregon law-enforcement leaders—Redmond Chief of Police Dave Tarbet, Crook County District Attorney Daina Vitolins, and Baker County District Attorney Matt Shirtcliff—recently joined forces to promote the crime-prevention benefits of federally-supported home-visiting programs. These leaders are members of the law-enforcement organization Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, which aims to protect public safety by promoting solutions that steer kids away from crime.
A staggering total of over 10,400 children in Oregon experience abuse or neglect each year. Research shows that children who experience abuse or neglect are twice as likely to commit a crime by age 19, compared to similar children who have not been abused or neglected. In Oregon, that equates to roughly 290 abused or neglected children per year who grow up to commit a crime.
The Fight Crime members discussed the problem of abuse and neglect, as well as its connection to crime. “Some of the hardest situations police officers walk into are the ones that involve abused or neglected children,” said Redmond Chief of Police Dave Tarbet.
Any time that we can prevent abuse up-front and save children from future consequences like victimization and criminal activity, everyone wins.
Redmond Chief of Police Dave Tarbet
As Chief Tarbet referenced, the especially tragic nature of these cases stems in part from the fact that many of them are preventable.
Thankfully, there’s a research-proven solution that helps stop abuse and neglect before it starts.
Voluntary home visiting provides coaching to new parents. A trained professional teaches key skills to parents from birth through the early years of the child’s life. This guidance and counseling covers topics ranging from infant health and safety to education and employment goal-setting. The state’s largest home-visiting program, Healthy Families Oregon, serves more than 2,500 families and enjoys critical support from Congressman Greg Walden of the Second Congressional District.
That type of support is essential, as lawmakers like Congressman Walden help lead the way on home visiting. Law-enforcement leaders know that these efforts can pay off in the form of crime prevention. “If there is an opportunity to prevent a child from ever ending up in my courtroom, I most certainly want to utilize that option,” said Crook County District Attorney Daina Vitolins.
Home visiting gives parents needed skills to put their child on a path to success.
Crook County District Attorney Daina Vitolins
Home visiting benefits not only individual families, but also communities. 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 provided education and job guidance.
Furthermore, a cost-benefit analysis found that high-quality home visiting saves up to $6,000 the lifetime of each child. The impact of fostering self-sustainability among families is reflected in welfare savings of $14,500 per family over a decade. In addition, 85 percent of federally supported home visiting programs demonstrated improvements in family self-sufficiency last year.
For nearly 25 years, Oregon families have appreciated the stability home visiting brings to their lives. This fall, the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV) comes up for reauthorization before Congress. It is critical that evidence-based home visiting receives the necessary funding to maintain and expand programs and enhance families’ independence and self-sufficiency. That urgency explains why so many law-enforcement leaders are asking Congress to vote to reauthorize MIECHV.
“This is ultimately about our community. When home visiting is supported by Congressman Walden and other members of Congress, families learn critical skills that help them stabilize,” said Baker County District Attorney Matt Shirtcliff. “That leads to community and economic benefits. Voluntary home visiting just makes sense on so many different levels.”