On Wednesday, November 2 there was a Capitol Hill briefing on the home visiting program, MIECHV (Maternal Infant Early Childhood Home Visiting). The target audience included Capitol Hill staff from both houses and both parties.  The goal of the briefing was an early education of congressional staff on the program and how it works. The home visiting initiative must be re-authorized in the next Congress by FY 2018.

Panelists included:  Loraine Lucinski, Deputy Director of Child Health; Tennessee Department of Health, Virginia Knox, Director, MDRC and Co-project Director for MIHOPE Evaluation and Strong Start Evaluation, Joan Yengo, Chief Program Officer, Mary’s Center who was accompanied by a young mother who benefited from a home visitor from Mary’s Center Family and Allison Barlow, MPH, PhD, Director, Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health

The home visiting program which was originally enacted as part of the Affordable Care Act with mandatory funding that ratchetted up each of the first five years until it reached its current funding level of $400 million a year. Despite its connection to the ACA the home visiting program has received bipartisan support the last few years and as a  result it has already received two short term extensions. The home visiting coalition, which CWLA is a member of, is still forming his recommendations for the next re-authorization but many advocates are discussing a a proposed increase of doubling funding by the end of the five years of the authorization.

So far MIECHV has provided more than 2.3 million visits to families living in poverty across 50 states, D.C., and five territories. Part of the programs appeal has been its requirements and reliance on past and future research. Seventy-five percent of funding must be dedicated to evidence-based programs, and up to 25 percent may be used for promising approaches with some funding reserved for research and evaluation  The legislation has evidence-based benchmarks that include improve maternal and newborn health, reduce child injuries, abuse, and neglect, improve school readiness and achievement, reduce crime or domestic violence, improve family economic self-sufficiency and improve coordination and referral for other community resources.

Early statistics and research indicates that 81 percent of programs showed improvements in maternal & newborn health (HRSA), there has been a 22 percent reduction in birth complications (Healthy Families America), 48 percent reduction in child abuse and neglect (Nurse Family Partnership), 85 percent of kindergarteners considered “ready for school” (HIPPY), 94 percent of children increased language scores (Parents as Teachers), 85 percent of programs showed improvements in family economic self-sufficiency (HRSA) and 31 percent of parents attained high school diploma or GED (Nurse-Family Partnership).

At the hearing panelists described the use of home visiting programs and how states have used the various models to reach key goals.  Initial grants required a state to assess need within their communities and state.  The young mother who spoke describe how home visitation helped her family of three boys and how to address some domestic violence issues in her marriage while maintaining support for her children.

CWLA sees a reauthorization of MIECHV as a top priority in the next Congress. The program is a prime example of prevention within the child welfare continuum of care.