In Focus: Infants and Toddlers

Mar 27, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

House Passes Important Extension for Home Visiting

By Stephanie Schmit

Yesterday, the U. S. House of Representatives passed the “Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015,” which provided a bipartisan, long-term solution for Medicare payments to physicians (this legislation is referred to as the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) repeal bill–and more informally as the “doc fix” bill) and reauthorized for an additional two years the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), scheduled to expire in September. The legislation also reauthorized the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program—which is slated to expire March 31, 2015—at current funding levels of $400 million per year. Overall, the legislation is an important win for vulnerable children and families across the country.

MIECHV, a federal and state partnership that has had broad bipartisan support, provides voluntary, evidence-based family- and child-related home visiting programs in every state. The bill will extend the program to March 2017. MIECHV targets high-risk families who are most likely to benefit from intensive home visiting services, which use trained professionals (often nurses, social workers, or parent educators) to help parents acquire the skills to promote their children’s development. The home visiting programs also help families connect to necessary services, such as health care or community resources, and monitor child development and progress on developmental milestones.

Our recent report, based on interviews with 20 states and 2 tribal grantees, highlights many early successes from MIECHV and demonstrates how its federal funding is being used to expand home visiting services to reach more families while also building the infrastructure to support well-coordinated and effective home visiting programs. Corresponding state profiles describe how grantees are evaluating the direct impact of home visiting and expanding and improving services for vulnerable communities. Complementing our qualitative research is a recently released brief and series of state profiles from the federal Department of Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), which administers MIECHV, highlighting quantitative data and other demographic information. The report shows that MIECHV home visiting programs in all 50 states, DC, and five territories served 115,500 parents and children (from birth to kindergarten entry) in 787 counties in FY 2014. Additionally, the first report from a federally mandated study on the program was recently released and showed early findings on what home visiting models are being used, who the recipients are, what needs they have, and other demographic information. With the two-year extension for MIECHV included in the House bill, continued data collection and reporting can assess the value of the program for vulnerable young children and families, adding to the growing body of evidence that includes this latest data.

The House took an important step by extending MIECHV, but continued funding depends on the Senate taking similar action. President Obama has already signaled that he will sign the bill when it reaches his desk. MIECHV has brought evidence-based home visiting services to more vulnerable children in the most at-risk communities. Our report has shown how essential MIECHV has been for the development of statewide home visiting systems, with states building the infrastructure needed to support lasting, effective programs. Research validates the notion that home visiting programs can enhance parenting and support young children’s early development--and can do so with significant public cost savings. The Senate should pass the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 and continue its commitment to investing in evidence-based home visiting to promote positive, long-term outcomes for children, families, and the nation.

The Senate is expected to take up the bill upon return from recess in April.

Feb 12, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

ESEA Reauthorization Provides Opportunity to Bolster Support for Vulnerable Young Children and Disadvantaged Youth

By Christina Walker and Kisha Bird

Congress is currently considering the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), a law established in 1965 to provide funding to primary and secondary education. To inform their crucial debate, CLASP has released recommendations focused on young children and early childhood education, as well as academic success and college readiness for disadvantaged youth.

ESEA emphasizes equal access to high-quality programs to give every child a fair chance at success in school and life. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently appealed for the reauthorization of ESEA, which has not been updated since No Child Left Behind in 2001. And last Monday, President Obama released his FY 2016 budget proposal, which included bold initiatives to support our nation’s most vulnerable families, including an increased investment in ESEA.

Young children experience the highest incidence of poverty, with young adults close behind. Black and Hispanic children are disproportionately affected. Children and youth who are poor or from low-income communities have far worse education and employment outcomes in adulthood. High-quality early care and education programs play a critical role in the healthy development of young children, particularly those in low-income households. But despite growing consensus on the importance of the early years, lack of public investment leaves many young children without access to high-quality early education programs, including Head Start, public and community-based preschool programs, and child care programs.

Youth and young adults are suffering, too. Many school districts are failing to provide high-quality education that keeps students engaged. For every 10 students that begin 9th grade, 2 fail to graduate from high school 4 years later. It’s critical that we strengthen the education system to ensure all students graduate and are prepared for postsecondary opportunities and careers.

ESEA has the potential to improve access to high-quality early learning opportunities for young children and ensure youth succeed academically and are ready for college and careers. CLASP recommends the following priorities be included in an ESEA reauthorization:

  • Provide a dedicated federal funding stream for early childhood education.
  • Improve early childhood services for children birth through school entry.
  • Ensure college and career readiness for all students by addressing disparities in school systems, particularly those with high-minority populations.
  • Fund dropout prevention and recovery strategies and interventions, including multiple education pathways and options for struggling and out-of-school youth.
  • Promote collaboration with other systems and sectors, such as human services and workforce systems and community based organizations, in order to better serve poor and low-income students.
  • Encourage states to invest in accountability and data systems that inform planning and programming around dropout prevention and recovery. 

A reauthorization of this important law must protect and enhance robust opportunities for all students, particularly those most at risk. Young children and disadvantaged youth are two key populations that deserve more attention in ESEA.

Read CLASP’s ESEA recommendations>>>

Feb 11, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

New CLASP Report Highlights the Impact of the MIECHV Program in States and Tribal Communities

By Christina Walker and Stephanie Schmit

A new CLASP report, An Investment in Our Future: How Federal Home Visiting Funding Provides Critical Support for Parents and Children, written in collaboration with the Center for American Progress, highlights how the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program funding has played a central role in expanding home visiting services to vulnerable families - including in hard-to-reach rural areas and tribal communities. Research shows that home visiting can lead to improved outcomes, such as better maternal and child health, increased school readiness, and the prevention of child injuries, abuse, and neglect. MIECHV is set to expire at the end of March without further Congressional action. 

Based on interviews with 20 states and 2 tribal organizations, An Investment in Our Future shows how federal MIECHV funding is being used to expand home visiting services to reach more families while also building the infrastructure to support well-coordinated and effective home visiting programs. Early successes from MIECHV include:

  • Expansion of evidence-based home visiting to serve and retain more vulnerable children and families in high-risk communities and keep them engaged in the programs.
  • Establishment of formal referral and intake systems within home visiting communities and across services that support children and families, ensuring they receive the best services to meet their needs.
  • Provision of systemic training, technical assistance, and professional development to support the home visiting workforce.
  • Creation of data collection systems, allowing grantees to analyze, evaluate, and report on data to demonstrate achieved child and family outcomes and improve program quality.
  • Coordination among home visiting and other early childhood programs as well as the creation of centralized intake systems, which are collaborative approaches to engaging, recruiting, and enrolling families in home visiting programs across programs and organizations.
  • Use of promising practices and other innovations to better serve at-risk populations with unmet needs.

Twenty-two in-depth state and tribal MIECHV grantee profiles are also available. The profiles describe how grantees are evaluating the direct impact of home visiting and expanding and improving services for vulnerable communities.

MIECHV grantees have built home visiting systems that reach some of the most vulnerable children and families in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, 25 tribal communities, and many U.S. territories. Continuing this investment and ensuring its sustainability will allow states and tribal grantees to continue expanding services to new communities and other underserved populations, as well as sustain the positive outcomes achieved thus far.  Congress should ensure that funding for the MIECHV program continues.  Failure to do so would result in reduced services and the dismantling of the statewide systems-building progress for families in communities in every state.

Visit www.clasp.org/miechv to read the full report, Executive Summary, and state and tribal profiles.

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