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Representatives Davis, DeGette, Doggett, and Castor Lead Effort to Support Children and Families by Reauthorizing the Home Visiting Law

Washington, D.C.- On July 28, 2017, Congressman Danny K. Davis (D-IL), Congresswoman Diana DeGette (D-CO), Congressman Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), and Congresswoman Kathy Castor (D-CA) introduced the Home Visiting Works Act of 2017 to support children and families by doubling federal funding for evidence-based home visiting.

In congressional districts across the country, the wide range of effective home visiting models funded by the evidence-based Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting program (MIECHV) are making a real difference for children and families. Home visiting programs provide pregnant women, new mothers, and families with young children with regular, planned visits from trained professionals who help them improve their healthy living and parenting skills, promote child development, and access needed resources and services. Participation is voluntary, and parents who have received home visits are among MIECHV’s most enthusiastic supporters.

At its current funding level, MIECHV is directly funding services to about 160,000 families a year. It is also making it easier for state, local, and private funders to invest in home visiting by continuously updating a list of home visiting models and “enhancements” which meet a rigorous test of proven effectiveness. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has currently identified 20 models of home visiting that have a real, measureable impact on outcomes ranging from maternal and child health, child abuse and neglect, school readiness, and family violence. New or improved models are being evaluated all the time by HHS.

MIECHV’s greatest challenge has been making home visiting available to all who need it. At the current funding level, states have only been able to serve about a third of counties identified as “at risk,” and HHS has been able to fund less than half of qualified applicants for Tribal MIECHV funding.  As a result, only 5 percent of eligible families are receiving home visiting services. The Home Visiting Coalition (HV) – a diverse group of organizations committed to the well-being of children, working to promote continued federal support of home visiting to strengthen families in communities across the country (http://homevisitingcoalition.com) – has asked for funding to be extended and doubled before it sunsets at the end of September. Families in all fifty states participate in the program and the states reiterated their request for timely reauthorization in a letter dated July 26, 2017.

Congressman Davis stated, “Parents, especially new parents often face obstacles—such as those caused by stress, language barriers, geographic and social isolation, and poverty—that impact their ability to fully support their baby’s development during the critical early years.  They are particularly important for reaching families with very young children, who often are not seen in more formal settings, such as preschool.   Voluntary home visiting programs have been shown to be an effective way to support families and children experiencing these risks because they reach families where they live and tailor services to meet their individual needs.”

Congresswoman DeGette commented, “This program has always enjoyed bipartisan support in Congress because it is the poster-child for evidence-based policymaking.  Investments in it are investments in the success of America’s children and their futures.  Simply put, Congress must reauthorize MIECHV before funding expires this year, and make sure it has the funding and stability needed to expand crucial services to even more children and families.”

Congressman Doggett explained, “Home visiting is an evidence-based strategy that works to help parents be the parents they want to be. It has enjoyed bipartisan support, but now we need more than kind words, we need the essential dollars to sustain this valuable, voluntary initiative. This bill represents one of the best investments we can make with taxpayer money—strengthening American families.”

Congresswoman Castor noted, “I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing the Home Visiting Works Act of 2017.  Real, measurable evidence shows that guidance with healthy living choices and parenting skills improves child development.  Kids and families have a better chance of success in life.  I understand the value of home visits from my neighbors who participate in initiatives like REACHUP, Inc. in my home town of Tampa.  Home visits strengthen families, improve maternal and child health, and help school readiness – results that improve the quality of life for children and their families.”

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