750+ Leaders to Congress: Save Home Visiting

More than 750 national, state and local child advocacy groups and organizations urged Congress this week to take action to extend funding for the federal Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program. The letter, coordinated by the national Home Visiting Coalition, includes signatories from every state and four territories, including national, state, local and tribal organizations and elected officials. National signatories include the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Federation of Teachers, American Psychological Association, National Association of Community Health Centers, National Association of Social Workers, National PTA, Prevent Child Abuse America, and the Salvation Army.

Florida signatories include Catalyst Miami, Champions for Children, Inc., Florida Association of Healthy Start Coalitions, Inc., Florida CHAIN, Florida Children’s Council, Florida Fair Share, Healthy Start of South West Florida, The Children’s Campaign, The Children’s Trust, The Ounce of Prevention Fund of Florida and Voices For Florida.

“We can’t keep making the same mistake over and over again – ignoring the problems children face until they get too big or too bad to manage,” said Bruce Lesley, president of the First Focus Campaign for Children, which is a member of the national home visiting coalition. “Leaders from across the country are sending a clear message to Congress: act now and avoid costly problems later.”

As the letter highlights, decades of research show that home visiting can prevent and mitigate serious problems facing children and their families. These include poor birth outcomes like prematurity and low birthweight, and other problems such as child abuse and neglect and childhood cognitive disabilities. Research also shows that home visiting can improve school readiness and academic achievement.

MIECHV has a track-record of bipartisan support. Federal funding for voluntary evidence-based home visiting initiatives was first enacted by President George W. Bush. These efforts were consolidated in 2010, under MIECHV. Since then, Texas Governor Rick Perry, Georgia governor Nathan Deal, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, and other state leaders have tapped MIECHV funding to support locally-focused home visiting initiatives. MIECHV supports home visiting initiatives in every state, the District of Columbia, all five territories, and with tribal organizations. MIECHV offers states considerable flexibility in the design and focus of their home visiting initiatives, while applying accountability requirements that ensure federal funding is used only for effective family supports.

“Continued funding for MIECHV should be a no-brainer for Congress. Thanks to this proven program, states are successfully leveraging resources to improve outcomes for vulnerable children and families on the individual, community and statewide levels,” said Lori Tremmel Freeman, CEO of the Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs, a coalition member.

The letter urges lawmakers to prioritize home visiting funding in the lame-duck congressional session or early in 2015. MIECHV is currently funded at $400 million a year, but that funding will expire at the end of March 2015.

“Put simply, there is no better investment the public can make than in the long-term success of our babies and their families. The MIECHV program provides support to families when it matters the most – in their child’s earliest years. Working through states and local communities, MIECHV home visitors help parents nurture their children, building strong relationships that form the foundation for success in school and in life,” said Matthew Melmed, Executive Director of ZERO TO THREE®, a coalition member.