Home visiting—which matches parents with trained providers who share information and offer support during pregnancy and throughout their child’s earliest years—received strong bipartisan support in state capitols during the 2013 legislative session.
Six states with diverse political landscapes enacted legislation that will help build high performing home visiting systems. Arkansas, Connecticut, Kentucky, New Mexico, Texas, and Vermont join Iowa, Maryland and Michigan in elevating home visiting as a proven program to strengthen outcomes for children and families. Two of these states, New Mexico and Texas, increased funding this session for home visiting programs by almost $10 million.
Pew’s Home Visiting Campaign provides strategic technical assistance to state campaigns that advance policy change. In New Mexico, the Alliance for Early Success and the New Mexico Early Childhood Development Partnership partnered with the Campaign in moving home visiting legislation. The strong bipartisan support for this measure was underscored by the fact that identical bills, one sponsored by Senator John Sapien (D) and the other by Representative Larry Larrañaga (R), moved through the legislature with near unanimous consent. The New Mexico legislation, signed into law by Gov. Susana Martinez, creates one of the most accountable, effective home visiting systems in the country.
Pew works with state partners to advance legislation as the first critical component to building effective home visiting systems for several reasons:
- Legislation elevates home visiting as a proven program for achieving positive family and child outcomes such as improvements in maternal and infant health, family self–sufficiency, and school readiness.
- It provides a clear roadmap for building a data-driven system that tracks and measures progress toward those outcomes, allowing administrators and policymakers to make adjustments as necessary.
- It requires coordination between the various state agencies that administer home visiting programs, breaking down the silos to better leverage resources and deepen the understanding of what is happening with children and families.
- Finally, the legislation lays the groundwork for future funding by building a solid system for investment.
The policy does three things:
First, it prioritizes investment in programs with a proven record of effectiveness, including promising approaches.
Second, it clearly articulates the outcomes that states want to achieve through their investments. While this may seem obvious and simple, many states have not clearly defined the goals of their home visiting programs and the specific outcomes they want to achieve. Having these goals clearly articulated drives everything else from program selection to data collection and analysis.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it establishes the infrastructure to collect the appropriate data elements for monitoring program quality and measuring outcomes. Over time, states will be able to clearly see where their home visiting investments are having an impact in improving the lives of children and families. For example, they’ll be able to track whether infant mortality is indeed declining or more disadvantaged children are better prepared for school. This information will help them determine whether changes need to be made in their home visiting programs and if the public funding is a solid investment.
We’re encouraged by the advances for home visiting in the last few legislative sessions and are excited about the momentum that is being created, in part, by partnerships like ours with the Alliance for Early Success. Ultimately, improving and expanding home visiting will help ensure that participating families experience strong results and states receive solid returns on investment for taxpayers.
Thanks to our guest blogger, Karen Kavanaugh, Manager, Pew Home Visiting Campaign (June 18, 2013)