Supporting healthy families

To help more people climb out of poverty, our federal social programs must have the end goals of independence and productivity. 

The Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program, known as MIECHV (pronounced McVee), is a positive example. With bipartisan support, this program has helped improve the health and well-being of families across the country.

The Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources, on which I serve as chairman, is working on the reauthorization of MIECHV this year. The program was fully authorized by Congress in Fiscal Year 2010. 

MIECHV helps support state and local efforts to provide voluntary, evidence-based home visiting services to parents and children at risk of adverse experiences. Objectives include promoting school readiness of young children, increasing economic self-sufficiency of families, improving prenatal health and birth outcomes, and preventing child abuse and neglect. 

Making this upfront investment in families protects children and reduces government dependence down the road.  

MIECHV is also one of the only social programs in which funding is tied to proven evidence of effectiveness – to do otherwise is a disservice to both taxpayers and beneficiaries. We know we must improve our anti-poverty programs by demanding results, and MIECHV provides a good example of what we should expect and receive from the use of limited taxpayer resources. 

For a home visiting model to be funded, an evaluation must show the program has demonstrated significant, positive outcomes in areas such as reducing child abuse and neglect, improving maternal and child health, and improving economic self-sufficiency. Many approved models are now being further studied through a rigorous random assignment evaluation to better measure their impacts so we know families are receiving real help.

On March 15, our Human Resources Subcommittee held a hearing on MIECHV, where we heard from witnesses who have either worked with clients in a home-visiting program or benefited from the services provided. Rosa, a 16-year-old high school junior from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, testified how a home-visiting program provided her with the support, confidence, and skills she needed when she found out she was pregnant at age 14.

Today, Rosa is the mother of a beautiful 20-month-old baby girl – who captured everyone’s hearts at the hearing – and is on track to graduate high school next year.

Nebraskans are also seeing positive outcomes from home visiting. Prior to our hearing, I visited Panhandle Public Health District’s Healthy Families America in Scottsbluff to see their work firsthand. The program strives to improve the economic success and school readiness of vulnerable children and families in Scotts Bluff, Morrill, and Box Butte Counties.

During my visit, I met Dawn, who was pregnant and homeless when she learned about home visiting. Through the program, she found a stable home and a steady income to provide for her growing family. Today, she is working toward a college degree.

We should strive to support the efforts of parents who are working to provide a better life for their children. I look forward to continuing our work on this reauthorization and ensuring our social programs help to build healthy, independent families.

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