MIECHV to Expire Without Congressional Action
Home Visiting Coalition disappointed in program lapse; vows to continue effort for reauthorization
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Sept. 29, 2017 — Despite strong bipartisan support, the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting program (MIECHV) expires on Saturday, Sept. 30. The Home Visiting Coalition called the anticipated program lapse a disappointment, especially in light of decades of evidence that MIECHV-funded home visiting models improve the health, development and education of young children.
MIECHV will expire and the longer that Congress takes to reauthorize this bipartisan evidence-based program, the more likely local home visiting programs will shut down, home visitors will lose their jobs, and families will lose home visiting services. Quick action by Congress is the only way to prevent anxiety among families in every state and many tribal communities, and prevent further damage to the home visitor and parent relationships that make the MIECHV program so effective,” said Diedra Henry-Spires, CEO of the Dalton-Daley Group and co-convener of the Home Visiting Coalition.
The Home Visiting Coalition also reiterated its call for quick passage of the bipartisan Senate bill (S. 1829), which reauthorizes MIECHV for five years without the harmful state-match requirement included in the House bill that passed this week. The Coalition intends to redouble its efforts to see MIECHV through to reauthorization as its outcomes are both desired and effective.
“It’s astounding to me that a program with a long history of bipartisan support couldn’t quickly be reauthorized before it expired. We remain committed to seeing this through and will continue to work with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle. MIECHV must get reauthorized quickly and in a way that preserves what works and continues to provide the home visiting services tens of thousands of families have come to rely on,” said Karen Howard, vice president of early childhood policy at First Focus and co-convener of the Home Visiting Coalition.
About the Home Visiting Coalition: The Home Visiting Coalition is a diverse group of organizations committed to the well-being of children, working to promote continued federal support of home visiting to strengthen families in communities across the country. Voluntary, evidence-based home visiting programs improve the health, development, and education of young children. These programs set the stage for children and families to become self-sufficient and successful.
Honoring Wyoming Families
By Josie Brittain
Here in Wyoming, we pride ourselves on honoring and empowering families. Parents are after all our children’s first and most influential teachers.
However, according to the annual KIDS Count Data Book, one in four Wyoming children experience trauma, neglect, abuse, violence or distressed family environments and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) that put them at risk for poor health outcomes and poor academic achievement.
And as our state legislators scramble to find the money to close the large K-12 budget shortfall and best support Wyoming children and families, there is something that our federal legislators – especially Senators Mike Enzi and John Barrasso – can do now to make sure our families are healthy and strong: support home visiting.
ACEs can be prevented or mitigated by the promotion of safe, stable and nurturing relationships and environments through home visiting.
Home visiting, an entirely voluntary program, helps parents in an environment they’re comfortable with and helps families at a time when they might need a little extra support to face the challenges in their home and with their child. It’s also evidence-based, undergoing scientific studies demonstrating that home visiting, among other things, improves prenatal care, early childhood health and development; increases school readiness and reduces child abuse, neglect and injuries.
In my role as a parent-educator through the Parents as Teachershome visiting program at Wyoming Citizens Review Panel, I focus on the parents, helping them engage with their child and empower them to set and reach family goals that set their child up for a healthier future and put their family on the path of economic self-sufficiency. I invite our senators to join me to witness first-hand the benefits of home visiting, and accompany me on a site visit.
If Senators Enzi and Barrasso experience a visit with me, I thinkthey will understand the urgency to take action now to reauthorize and expand the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV) before it expires. MIECHV, a program with strong bipartisan support, along with states and private foundations, funds voluntary, evidence-based home visiting in Wyoming and across the country. They will get to meet the families I have – families who’ve developed a new real connection after periods of neglect, parents who have gone back to school or found new paths of economic opportunity, and military families stationed at Warren Air Force Base overcoming the isolation that comes when you live far from your support network or when your spouse is deployed.
For a state like Wyoming where we’re struggling to balance our state budget, investing in home visiting is crucial. For every tax dollar spent nationally on home visits, as much as $5.70 is returned to the community. Preventing and mitigating ACEs in the early years can help Wyoming reduce costs over the long term.
Our senators, especially Senator Enzi who serves on the Senate Committee on Finance, can lead the charge to renew and expand MIECHV in a way that provides stability for families and flexibility to states, and so that many more families with young children could benefit from this evidence-based intervention. The best path forward for families in Wyoming is for MIECHV to be renewed for five years, incrementally increasing its funding to $800 million.
Doing so is a smart investment in Wyoming’s families and empowers parents to make the best decisions for their own families. I hope Senators Enzi and Barrasso will take me up on my invitation and come see first-hand why home visiting is so important and why MIECHV needs their support.
Josie Brittain is a parent-educator at Parents as Teachers program operated by the Wyoming Citizens Review Panel, helping families in the Cheyenne area.
By Sophie Hurwitz, The St. Louis American
Constance Gully, the new CEO of the national nonprofit Parents as Teachers, which is headquartered in St. Louis County, knows how the early childhood home visits that the program provides can help a family.
“My son is 22, and he was a Parents as Teachers baby,” she said. “So I was a Parents as Teachers parent at one time, in Normandy School District. So I always tell people, about my PAT baby, that the only thing my parent educator didn’t prepare me for was my baby growing a beard!”
Parents as Teachers provides home visits to new parents, starting during pregnancy and continuing through the first few years of a child’s life. Though the nonprofit was founded in Missouri in 1984, it has since expanded its footprint to all 50 states, 100 tribal communities, and six countries. During Parents as Teachers (PAT) home visits, they coach parents on childcare tips, provide immunizations, screen children to identify developmental disabilities early on, and help connect parents with services.
Though Parents as Teachers has grown significantly from its humble origins, the organization is still heavily invested in the St. Louis area – as evidenced by their choice of Constance Gully, an East St. Louis native and former CFO for Harris-Stowe State University, as CEO. Gully has been the permanent CEO since February and interim CEO since August 2016. She was promoted from CFO.
“As an African-American female in the nonprofit world, I think this is a very unique opportunity,” she said. “There aren’t a lot of national nonprofit CEOs that look like me, and I don’t take that lightly.”
Now she is working to organize the upcoming Parents as Teachers International Conference in Philadelphia this November. Along with that, Gully is prioritizing attempts to keep funding for the program. Parents as Teachers uses a scientifically proven model for improving children’s school-readiness, so it has previously received substantial government funding.
“There are some very high stakes on the radar for early childhood evidence-based home visiting, specifically,” said Gully. The Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV), which provides grant funding for “about 25 percent” of PAT programs in 35 states, is currently set to expire on September 30.
Though one of her priorities as CEO is to keep national funding, the funding situation in Missouri, where the program began, has been “challenging” for some time.
“We’re still at almost half of the funding level where we were, from the state of Missouri, back in 2010,” she said. So as the organization has grown, its funding in Missouri has shrunk.
“Many of the districts in Missouri don’t have the resources to meet their requirements today,” Gully said. “So we have to find a creative way to support the districts in Missouri, whether that’s technical assistance or helping them through in some other way.”
One program Parents as Teachers has in Missouri is a partnership with the Normandy Schools Collaborative, the region where Gully raised her own son. PAT’s office space in the district is right next to the Normandy Early Childhood Center, allowing them to collaborate on making sure children have all the immunizations required to begin kindergarten and track the developmental milestones of each child.
In her role as CEO, Gully also hopes to increase the cultural sensitivity of Parents as Teachers and to reflect the diversity of the families the organization serves.
“One of the important roles that I have is to increase and improve the level of cultural competency that we have as an organization, and push that strength out to the field,” she said. “To make sure, for example, that the books that are usually passed out during every home visit reflect the families that are served.”
And that ability to reach families from every cultural background, and help with the difficult task of parenting, is why Gully fights to make sure Parents as Teachers keeps growing into the future.
“We work in urban communities, rural communities, tribal communities, military families,” she said. “I think we are uniquely prepared as a model to reach families where they are.”
MacKenzie Grayson, Supervisor for the Parents as Teachers program in the Normandy Schools Collaborative and former PAT participant, recently met with U.S. Senator Roy Blunt in Washington, D.C. MacKenzie was part of a group of PAT moms and parent educators from several states who traveled to the nation’s capital last week to visit with lawmakers. Others included Daniela Cardenas (PAT mom) and her Parent Educator, Rosy Torrico from Washington, Flora Nyakatura (PAT mom) and her Parent Educator, Lauren Ware from Kansas. They were honored at the national Home Visiting Coalition’s “Seeding Success” event. At the event, Rosy and Daniela also presented Rep. Reichert (R-WA-8) with a home visiting champion award. They also made visits with U.S. Sens Blunt (R-MO), Roberts (R-KS), McCaskill (D-MO), Murray (D-WA), Cantwell (D-WA) and Rep. Yoder, (R-KS-3) to talk about the reauthorization of the federal home visiting program, MIECHV.