On Wednesday, March 16, 2022, the Worker and Family Support Subcommittee of the Ways and Means Committee held a hearing on “Improving Family Outcomes Through Home Visiting.”
Several panelists focused their testimony on the personal stories of families served by programs funded by the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program, a federal grant program to states, territories, and Tribes that supports voluntary, evidence-based early childhood home visiting for families from pregnancy through kindergarten entry. MIECHV is due for reauthorization by September 30, 2022.
Myia Smith, a Family Support Worker, shared several stories of families she has worked with, including fellow panelist Erica Beck, a program participant that talked about her experiences. Angella Dancer, Senior Manager of Home Visiting for Choctaw Nation, focused her testimony of the impact of this funding for tribal families, where services can be hard to access. Debie Coble also shared specific examples of women that her organization, Goodwill Industries of Michiana, has paired with nurses, with great success.
These stories emphasized how important federally funded home visiting services are to the health and wellbeing of infants and mothers alike – the examples illustrated how MIECHV programs improve physical and mental health outcomes, increase education and employment opportunities, enhance school readiness for children, provide education and referrals for concrete supports, and support parents through early intervention screenings and service system navigation. Chair Danny Davis (D-IL) praised the panelists for sharing their personal narratives and highlighted how vital the program is in his district in Chicago.
Panelist Steven Pascal, Director of Home Visiting for Children’s Trust in Massachusetts, also noted the substantial evidence base and rigorous evaluation requirements of the programs funded under MIECHV. Ranking Member Jackie Walorski (R-IN) praised these programs as the gold standard for government investment due to their proven success rates, a sentiment echoed by other Representatives from the minority party.
MIECHV supports a range of models that allow communities to select and implement the programs that best address their needs, providing local flexibility and choice. This flexibility, coupled with the strong evidence of effectiveness, has led to strong bipartisan support for the reauthorization this year. Representatives on both sides of the aisle praised MIECHV programs during the hearing and committed to continued support.
The National Home Visiting Coalition is leading the advocacy community in the effort to secure meaningful increases and changes in MIECHV through the reauthorization process, such as increasing funding to serve more families and better support the workforce, doubling the Tribal set-aside for more equitable access to funds, and continuing to allow virtual visits for service delivery. These changes are necessary to ensure that every eligible family has access to home visiting services, not just the mere 3-5% currently served.