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Parent Support Teams Look to Congress

The Home Visiting Coalition wants to see federal funding for programs that help struggling parents continue. Unless Congress acts, funding will expire in March. Credit: Microsoft Images
The Home Visiting Coalition wants to see federal funding for programs that help struggling parents continue. Unless Congress acts, funding will expire in March. Credit: Microsoft Images
December 10, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - The clock is ticking on federal funding that helps struggling parents with young children.

The Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program expires in March unless Congress takes action. A coalition of 750 organizations, including six in Arkansas, sent a letter asking that the program continue as it has for decades.

Karen Howard, vice president for early-childhood policy at First Focus Campaign for Children said the home-visiting idea has always had bipartisan support.

Research has shown that voluntary home visits, usually conducted by nurses or social workers, can prevent serious problems and learning deficits, Howard said, "and is a real effective strategy for, particularly low-income families and women, building up their knowledge base and their self-esteem so that they can be capable parents."

There's also a payoff. Howard pointed to a RAND Corp. report that found home-visiting programs saved up to around $6 for every $1 invested.

Howard said many parents are very young, experienced abuse or neglect as children, are disconnected from their parents or have aged out of the foster system. The home-visiting professionals offer nonjudgmental support, Howard said, "having someone who is your mentor, coach, health advocatem and helping you to cope, and helping you to feel like you can be successful in this new role."

The American Academy of Pediatrics, Prevent Child Abuse America and Salvation Army are among the national organizations that signed the letter. Among the Arkansas groups signing: the Invest Early Coalition, and Parents as Teachers at Fort Smith Public Schools.

Funding nationally has been at about $400 million a year.

The letter is available online at campaignforchildren.org.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - AR