Learning and development begin long before a child enters a classroom for the first time. In order for children to be ready for school, it’s critical that parents have the tools necessary to support their child’s development. For parents that are experiencing poverty, language barriers or geographic isolation, voluntary home visiting can be a valuable resource for supporting parents to be the best advocate for their child’s learning and development in the early years, including serving pregnant mothers. Home visits improve family and child outcomes by tailoring support to the family’s needs. Investing in children from birth through family support programs ultimately saves money for tax payers as a result of the increased family self-sufficiency.
Funding for voluntary home visiting programs at the federal level comes from the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program, a federal/state partnership with long-standing bipartisan support in Congress and in states, was first established by Congress in 2010. Federal investment in MIECHV has kickstarted a boost in state investment. Since 2010, ten states—Arkansas, Connecticut, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio, Texas, and Vermont – have passed legislation that creates similar accountability for their state home visiting investments. After a six month extension in 2015, Congress passed the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 which extended MIECHV for an additional two years through 2017.
Since the needs of families in communities across the country can greatly vary, the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program is designed to give states flexibility in identifying local needs to maximize effectiveness in improving outcomes. MIECHV supports trained home visitors to address issues that include maternal and newborn health, school readiness and achievement, family economic self-sufficiency, and more, making MIECHV a critical piece to providing a continuum of care for children from birth to age five.
Congress passed a bill in 2018 to reauthorize MIECHV for five years. By improving and supporting newborn and maternal health, home visiting significantly impacts academic performance, reduces crime and domestic violence, encourages self-sufficiency within families and builds the foundation for a better prepared workforce and a stronger economy.