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Congress Just Let a Critical Home Visiting Program for Vulnerable Children and Families Expire

Cristina Swank holds her baby during a home visit by a nurse, October 2014.

While leaders in Congress were pushing through their latest failed attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), they let funding for two critical early childhood programs run out. The first—the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)—provides health insurance to nearly 9 million low-income children across the country. The lesser known Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program funds evidence-based home visiting for vulnerable families that are living in poverty or facing other risk factors. In 2016, MIECHV funded home visits for nearly 160,000 parents and children in all 50 states.

Parents that enroll in voluntary home visiting programs are matched with a nurse, social worker, or early childhood professional who provides parent coaching throughout pregnancy and a child’s early years. Home visitors help parents create a safe and healthy home environment; teach them information about proper nutrition, stress management, and child development; refer them to programs that promote family economic security; and much more.

Home visiting programs have positive, lifelong outcomes for both children and parents and are among the programs with the strongest evidence base. Home visiting has been demonstrated to improve child and maternal health; reduce child maltreatment; increase school readiness; and improve family economic self-sufficiency. These programs are well worth the investment and have a positive impact on the economy: It is estimated that for every $1 invested in home visiting, there is a $3 to $5 return to society.

Congress has already let funding for MIECHV expire, and if they wait any longer to reauthorize it, thousands of families will lose access to home visiting services. Here’s how many children and parents in each state are at risk of losing access to this critical program if Congress does not act.

Leila Schochet is a Research Associate for the Early Childhood Policy team at the Center for American Progress.