COLORADO—The Colorado Department of Human Services’ Home Visiting Program received $7,773,398 in late September from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration to provide voluntary, evidence-based home visiting services to qualifying at-risk expectant and new mothers through the federal Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program. Congress failed to reauthorize the program in a vote taken at the end of September. Federal funding for the program will end in FY 2018-19 if the federal MIECHV Program is not reauthorized.
Colorado’s home visiting program is demonstrated to help improve children’s well-being and school readiness, and strengthen parenting skills for new and expectant mothers by providing information on children’s health, development, and safety. Through Colorado’s home visiting program, new and expectant mothers can schedule regular meetings with a licensed professional to provide families with information, support, and answers to any questions regarding pregnancy or parenting.
Home visiting programs are rigorously evaluated and are an effective way to improve child health, reduce abuse and neglect, and increase school readiness and achievement. Parents also benefit through improved prenatal health and reduced rates of maternal depression, increased participation on education and job training, higher rates of employment, and reduced use of economic assistance programs. These outcomes can result in significant cost savings for states.
MIECHV funding, first awarded to Colorado in 2011, supports families in 12 Colorado counties that exhibit certain risk factors such as elevated rates of poverty, premature births, low-birthweight infants, infant mortality, crime, domestic violence, low educational attainment, substance abuse, tobacco use, service in the armed forces, unemployment and child maltreatment.
In FY 2016-17, the Colorado Home Visiting Program made 37,704 home visits to 7,218 parents and children in Alamosa, Costilla, Crowley, Morgan, Otero, Saguache, Adams, Clear Creek, Denver, Gilpin, Mesa and Pueblo counties.
“We use a two-generation approach to help at-risk parents build on the skills they already have to secure the best opportunities for their families and work toward self-sufficiency,” said Julie Becker, Home Visiting Program Director. “Our research shows visits from a trained professional during pregnancy and the first few years of childhood greatly improve the mental and physical health of both the mother and child. These visits help prevent child abuse and neglect, and improve cognitive development and school readiness in children.”
The federal MIECHV grant funds three evidence-based models of home visiting in Colorado.
Nurse-Family Partnership: This program, which pairs first-time, low-income mothers with highly trained nurses, demonstrated success in helping 18 percent of expectant mothers using alcohol and tobacco products to quit by the 36th week of pregnancy, which contributed to 89 percent of newborns weighing a medically healthy birth weight. Participants also saw an increase in workforce participation after completion of the program, with nearly 60 percent reporting gainful employment. New parents reported they began incorporating daily interactive reading and literacy work after completion of the program, and 65 percent exhibited above-average teaching, responsiveness, encouragement and affection with their child in post-program evaluations.
Parents as Teachers: This is a parent education and family support program serving families from pregnancy until their child enters kindergarten. Colorado data shows children enrolled in the program, on average, increased their percentile rank by 7 percent on the Bracken School Readiness Assessment. November 8 of each year marks National Teachers as Parents Day, which is an opportunity to recognize organizations providing Parents as Teachers (PAT) home visiting services around the country.
Home Instructions for Parents of Preschool Youngsters. This is a peer-delivered school readiness program that helps prepare 3- to 5-year-old children for success. Colorado children enrolled in the program increased their percentile rank, on average, by 10 percent on the Bracken School Readiness Assessment while they were enrolled in the program.
The home visiting program also connects families to medical care and screenings. As a result, 96 percent of participating children nationally were screened for delays in communication, and physical health and development. By comparison, in 2016 only around 67 percent of Colorado children were screened for these delays.
The MIECHV program is funded through the current fiscal year, however it failed to receive reauthorization from Congress on Sept. 30, 2017. Without additional legislation, this federal program will end on September 30, 2018. In addition to the federal grant, Colorado contributes $20.0 million in revenue remitted from the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement to support statewide access to the Nurse-Family Partnership program.