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How Voluntary Home Visiting Programs Help New Parents and Families Get A Better Start

The Next Generation brief, “Helping Hands: A Review of Home Visiting Programs in California,” can be downloaded here.

Last week, the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics published a really remarkable study. It described an early childhood intervention that reduces childhood mortality, with results lasting over a twenty-year time span. Even more surprising was that this intervention also reduced the death rate of the mothers of enrolled children from both natural or external causes (like suicide or drug overdoses).

The intervention was one that has been studied and touted by children’s advocates for years: voluntary home visiting. Families who receive an in-home visit by a trained professional do better on a whole range of outcomes, including the fascinating reduction in death rates described in last week’s JAMA article. Other outcomes include improved prenatal health, decreased dependence on social services, increased child literacy and more. An added resource made available to parents can make a big difference, particularly one that is culturally and linguistically competent. Parents who are supported in this way are more likely to help their children shine and meet their full potential.

Today, Next Generation is releasing “Helping Hands: A Review of Home Visiting Programs in California” to highlight the importance of voluntary home visiting programs throughout our big, diverse state. County First 5 Commissions, as well as First 5 California, have made significant investments in home visiting programs, and are serving over 27,000 families. California has also leveraged federal funding from the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program to build evidence-based home visiting across the state. The brief describes the diverse range of home visiting programs at work throughout the state. Despite substantial financial commitments, only 11 percent of California’s families receive a home visit between pregnancy and their child’s third birthday.

However, both of these investments are in a precarious position. MIECHV funds are set to expire in March 2015 unless Congress acts to renew it. And First 5 funding is uncertain as tobacco sales decline. The need for state investments in home visiting is greater now than ever.

In the coming months, Next Generation will continue to pursue a research agenda focused on home visiting, in collaboration with Children Now. Next Generation and Children Now will work in concert, along with other partners, on research and advocacy work in this important area of early childhood policy. Through this collaboration, we will promote the impact of home visiting programs for California’s vulnerable children and families, and provide recommendations on how the state can sustain investments in these programs. I am excited about this partnership’s potential to increase awareness about this important early education tool among policymakers and parents throughout California.

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