The First Five Years Fund is pleased with Congress’ bipartisan approval of a six-month extension of the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program. The bill’s movement is yet another big win for our nation’s children and families, and reinforces the important role early childhood education plays in building the foundation of success for our youngest learners.

Law enforcement, business leaders, health professionals, educators and dozens of organizations called for extending funding—and Congress heard them loud and clear. Today’s legislation will ensure that funding for voluntary federal home visiting programs, currently set to expire at the end of September, will continue through March 2015. Without this action, thousands of community-based programs would be forced to close, affecting families in need and staff across the country.

While extending MIECHV through March 2015 is a step in the right direction, there is more work to be done. Congress must continue to keep an eye on long-term solutions that prioritize cost-effective programs in early childhood education, including home visiting. These proven programs strengthen families, increase school readiness, reduce crime rates and decrease incidents of domestic violence.

The MIECHV program is a federal/state partnership that has had long-standing bipartisan support in Congress and in states due to successes in strengthening vulnerable families and providing young parents with the critical skills they need to improve their child’s education and early development.

Research shows that voluntary home visiting programs can achieve a strong return on investment. Many home visiting programs have lowered health care costs, reduced the need for costly remedial education among children and placed at-risk families on a path to self-sufficiency. Others have even been successful in supporting the education and training of mothers, increasing their earnings by up to $300 a month.

We urge Congress to fully reauthorize home visiting with a long-term extension to ensure these highly effective programs continue to serve local families and children long into the future.