By Alison May
Home visiting is a prevention strategy used to support pregnant moms and new parents to promote infant and child health, foster educational development and school readiness, and help prevent child abuse and neglect.
Home visitors can provide in-home supports and are often child development specialists, social workers and, in some program models, trained nurses. During the visits, trained staff focus on linking pregnant women with prenatal care, promoting strong parent-child attachment, coaching parents on learning activities that foster their child’s development, and supporting parents’ role as their child’s first and most important teacher. Participation in these programs is completely voluntary.
Home visiting is particularly cross-cutting between health and human services systems. Home visiting often shows benefits as early as prenatally which continue through child and maternal health, finally reaching into the early years of development allowing children to enter school ready to learn.
During the 60-minute webinar, now available in an archive, attendees learned about the health, wellness and school readiness benefits of state home visiting programs; heard state examples of home visiting from Tennessee, Kentucky and New Mexico; learned about ways states fund and provide resources for home visiting; and participated in a robust question and answer period with the four presenters.
Kay Johnson, a nationally recognized expert in perinatal preconception care, home visiting, early childhood development and, mental health, kicked off the webinar by providing an informative broad overview of home visiting specifically noting what it is, who it is for and how states pay for it.
The webinar then shifted gears to highlight characteristics of state home visiting programs in Tennessee, Kentucky and New Mexico, exploring some of the program evaluation work that the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) has conducted. An online slide deck offers more details from the presentations by Angie McKinney Jones, section chief for Early Childhood within the Tennessee Department of Health; Kentucky Representative Joni Jenkins (D); and Charles Sallee, deputy director for program evaluation at the New Mexico LFC.
At the conclusion of the presentations, the webinar provided an informative question and answer period. Among many great questions, presenters were asked, “If they had a magic wand to wave how or what they would do to improve their home visiting programs?”
Sallee said he would love to see New Mexico move faster in leveraging Medicaid dollars to finance evidence-based home visiting models. Both Jenkins and Jones shared similar wishes to expand the program and increase the number of families that home visiting could affect.
The federal home visiting initiative, the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program, started in 2010 as a provision within the Affordable Care Act providing states with substantial federal funding for home visiting. The MIECHV program was reauthorized under the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act through Sept. 30, 2017. NCSL’s D.C. and Denver staff both monitor the reauthorization of the MIECHV program and aim to provide an update once it is available. Access the archived webinar along with a comprehensive webpage on the topic on NCSL’s website.
Alison May is a research analyst II with NCSL’s Early Care and Education project.