The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has announced the awarding of $224 million in grants to help at-risk families voluntarily receive home visits from nurses and social workers to improve maternal and child health, child development, school readiness, economic self-sufficiency and child abuse prevention.
As part of the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program, these grants are funded by the Affordable Care Act and are awarded to agencies that applied for the grants in 49 states.
“Home visiting programs play a critical role in the nation’s efforts to help children get off to a strong start,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a news release. “Parenting is a tough job, and helping parents succeed pays big dividends in a child’s well-being and healthy development.”
Both the formula and competitive grants awarded will be used by state agencies to support home visiting programs that bring nurses, social workers or other healthcare professionals to help at-risk families that agree to meet with them in their homes. The professionals work with families to evaluate their circumstances, help parents gain the skills they need to succeed in promoting healthy development in their children and connect families to the kind of help that can make a difference in a child’s health, development and ability to learn.
Research has shown that home visiting programs can improve outcomes for children and families, including improving maternal and child health, reducing child maltreatment, increasing parental employment and improving the rate at which children reach developmental milestones, according to the news release. HHS undertook an exhaustive review of the research evidence on different home visiting programs to identify the models that have proven to work.
“These investments will go a long way toward keeping our kids health and building robust early childhood systems across the country,” Mary Wakefield, RN, PhD, administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration, said in the news release.
Under the MIECHV program, states must use at least three-quarters of the funding provided to implement one or more evidence-based program. The program also supports continued innovation by allowing up to 25% of funding to carry out and evaluate promising new approaches.
Formula grant awards totaling $124 million were awarded to 55 eligible agencies in 49 states, Washington, D.C., and U.S. territories.
Another $100 million in competitive funding went to states that have sufficiently demonstrated the interest and capacity to expand or to enhance the development of their home visiting efforts:
• Expansion Grants: Approximately $66 million was awarded to nine states and jurisdictions that have already made significant progress towards implementing a high-quality home visiting program as part of a comprehensive, early childhood system. These states will serve as models to the rest of the nation on how to build a robust home visiting program integrated into other efforts designed to ensure that children get off to a good start.
• Development Grants: Approximately $34 million was awarded to 13 states and jurisdictions that currently have modest home visiting programs and want to build on existing efforts. States that successfully complete development grants can compete for future expansion grants.
Lists of grant awardees are available at www.hrsa.gov/about/news/2011tables/110922homevisiting.html. For more information on HRSA’s MIECHV program, visit http://mchb.hrsa.gov/programs/homevisiting/.