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What Is Home Visiting?

Voluntary Home Visiting is an effective state strategy that connects expectant parents and parents of young children with a designated support person, like a trained nurse, social worker, or early childhood specialist. Because parents and primary caregivers play the most important role in supporting their children’s healthy development, states make voluntary home visiting available so families have the supports and resources that they need and want – and outcomes for babies improve.

Evidence shows that various home visiting models can be highly effective prevention strategies. When babies don’t get what their growing brains need to thrive, they don’t develop as they should, which leads to life-long developmental, educational, social, and health challenges. In order to support parents in this critical developmental window, states, communities, and nonprofits have been supporting various home visiting strategies for decades.

The Bipartisan Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV)

In 2010, a bipartisan act of Congress established the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV), which provides significant funding to states for the development and implementation of home visiting through programs with measurable results.

Administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration in partnership with the Administration for Children and Families, the MIECHV program is designed to improve maternal and child health, prevent child abuse and neglect, increase families’ education level and earning potential, and promote children’s development and readiness to participate in school.

MIECHV-funded voluntary programs for new parents have been broadly popular with both parties, and it was reauthorized in a bipartisan budget bill in 2015 and signed by President Donald Trump.

Does it Work?

Voluntary home visiting has been implemented in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, 5 territories, 25 tribal communities, and 51 percent of U.S. counties. This is likely because of the growing evidence that high-quality home visiting programs can:

    • Increase children’s school readiness
    • Enhance parents’ abilities to support their children’s overall development
    • Improve child health and development
    • Improve family economic self-sufficiency and reduce need for food assistance

Voluntary home visiting can also provide a crucial support for expecting and new parents in rural areas, where access to these types of trained professionals may be limited.

Funding and Expansion

Nationally, just over 2 percent of families with infants and toddlers who could benefit from evidence-based home visiting are receiving those services.

In seven states, that number is less than 1 percent. While reauthorization and expansion of MIECHV can play an important role in helping states support more parents, states are using additional funding sources to expand voluntary home visiting. Many are leveraging multiple funding streams to supplement their MIECHV funding, including state budgets, Medicaid, Family First Prevention Services Act funding, and even COVID relief funds.

Why? In addition to being an efficient and effective use of funding (studies find a return on investment of $1.80 to $5.70 for every dollar spent on voluntary home visiting), research also increasingly shows that voluntary home visiting is the kind of parent-led support that families want. 

State Home Visiting Programs in the News:

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