Last week, the Legislature spent several hours debating our state budget and discussing how Nebraska plans to invest in our children over the next two years. One important decision was the rejection of an amendment to decrease funding for home visiting programs by $500,000. Visiting high-risk families in their own home by a public health nurse is proven to be one of the most effective programs for protecting children and preventing child abuse and neglect. Voices for Children continues to support increasing our investment in this necessary program.
Home visiting programs are used across the nation to promote positive parenting, improve child health and promote responsive parent-child interaction among struggling families with young children. The impact of these programs are outstanding:
- Mothers in Virginia who participated in home visiting programs from pregnancy until the child’s 2nd birthday cut instances of abuse and neglect in half.
- Oklahoma found that adding home visiting services to the state’s child welfare program helped prevent repeat abuse and neglect by 26%.
- 6-year-old former participants in Tennessee had higher cognitive and vocabulary scores than their peers. At age 9, they had higher grade point averages and achievement test scores in math and reading.
- A national survey of families who had received home visiting services were less likely to be dependent on public benefit programs, amounting in a savings of $5.70 for every tax dollar spent.
The prenatal and early childhood period provides a critical window of opportunity. The impact of infants’ health at birth and the care they receive (or don’t receive) during these important years lasts throughout their lives. Regular visits by trained home visitors during this time alter the path of families’ lives and lay a strong foundation for children’s future – preventing problems that require more expensive interventions and treatments later in life.