Voluntary home visiting programs for young children and their families yield benefits like school readiness, crime prevention and economic independence for families, but only 9% of the highest-priority families receive services when federal, state and local resources are combined, according to a report released Tuesday.
Council For A Strong America, a national, bipartisan, nonprofit group of membership organizations, released the report ahead of a Sept. 30 congressional deadline to extend federal funding for the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting program, or MIECHV, which is administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Additionally, the council released an interactive map showing state-by-state percentages of high-priority families served by MIECHV.
In FY 2020, nearly 300,000 families nationally received home visiting services, of which 71,000 — or about 2% of the highest-priority families — were served through MIECHV-funded programs. The report estimates that approximately 3.4 million highest-priority families nationally could benefit from home visiting.
"Reauthorizing this funding before it expires is vitally important for vulnerable children and families across the nation," said Barry Ford, president and CEO of Council For A Strong America.
In 2018, the MIECHV program was funded at $400 million per year through FY 2022, which ends Sept. 30. The report recommended an increase of $200 million annually for the program, which it said has been level-funded since 2015.
The MIECHV program, which families choose to participate in, has a variety of home visiting models based on staffing, approach, intensity, range of services, age of the child, and targeted outcomes. The Parents as Teachers model, for instance, provides weekly home visits of 150 minutes. Employed parent educators help families with early detection of developmental delays and health issues, knowledge of child development, school readiness and more.
According to HHS' Health Resources and Services Administration, 79% of children enrolled in MIECHV in FY 2020 had a family member who read, told stories, and/or sang with them on a daily basis — a 10 percentage point increase compared to the average of the three previous years.
Recommendations made in the report include:
- Doubling the set-aside for funding dedicated to tribal communities.
- Allowing continuation of virtual home visits where they are desired and needed.
- Increasing compensation for the home visiting workforce.