Today marks the 81st day since the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program has expired. Congress has yet to squarely focus its attention on one of the most effective evidenced-based programs in the federal programming portfolio. The urgency to renew this program has slipped due to the drumbeat of tax reform and other congressional agenda items. However, the sound of MIECHV’s impact resounds throughout our communities and cannot be allowed to subside even in the face of congressional lack of prioritization of the families and children served by MIECHV. Through MIECHV programming, parents have been able to make socio-economic gains and children have experienced better health outcomes.
No place knows the MIECHV impact better than Pennsylvania Maternity Care Coalition (MCC). MCC has the largest MIECHV supported Early Head Start (EHS) program in the state of Pennsylvania. MCC advocates completed 12,053 home visits in 2016. This continued delay in renewing MIECHV is untenable. If state funding were to run out in Pennsylvania, evidence-based home visiting programs such as Healthy Families America (HFA) and EHS could very well be unable to serve families and children. Losing MIECHV funding would mean that families would lose, among other important strategies, vital tools to improve the health and educational readiness of their children, curtail illicit drug (including opioid) use, and improve mental health outcomes. This would be disastrous for Pennsylvania families and an indictment of epic proportion against Congress.
Through the MIECHV program, the federal government has bolstered evidence-based home visiting since 2010, investing $1.85 billion for services, research, and local infrastructure to develop early childhood systems. Evidence-based home visiting is now implemented in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, 5 territories, and 25 tribal communities. About 40 percent of all counties have at least one local agency offering evidence-based home visiting. Now is not the time to veer from programming that we know works.
Evidence-based programming is the most sensible way to implement policy. Evidence-based programming simply means supporting what works. MIECHV stands at the forefront of evidence-based policy. The return on investment, the measurable outcomes, and the bipartisan acknowledgement of its benefit across states, arguably elevates MIECHV above all other safety net policies currently under consideration for reauthorization. No other policy has the built in outcome constructs and benchmarks as strenuous as MIECHV. This makes it critical that this premier evidence-based policy be renewed as soon as possible as a beacon to implementing programming known to work for the families of this nation.
Fortunately, you can help slow the damage being done because of MIECHV expiration. Make your voice heard. Though stalled, the Senate has a bipartisan bill calling for the reauthorization of MIECHV. The House has two bills calling for the reauthorization of MIECHV. All of the bills ask for the reauthorization to span five years with at least current funding. This important program transcends politics in that both House Republicans and Democrats agree that 5-years is the appropriate duration for this reauthorization. In the Senate, 28 members have agreed that 5-years should be the length of the reauthorization and have dropped the harmful state match from the legislation.
Call your members of Congress today and tell them MIECHV must be reauthorized now for five years and with no less than the current annual funding level. It is critical. The evidence that MIECHV programming works is clear, now urge Congress to support this evidence-based programming with a swift vote to reauthorize MIECHV.
To find your member of Congress, click here or Text RESIST to 50409.
Diedra Henry-Spires is the Chief Executive Officer of The Dalton-Daley Group in Washington D.C. She is arguably the nation’s foremost expert on evidenced-based home visiting policy having authored the Maternal Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) legislation as a staff member of the Senate Finance Committee. Most recently, she designed the national advocacy strategy for MIECHV reauthorization while serving as the Policy Lead and Co-Convener of the Home Visiting Coalition. Follow Diedra on Twitter @WeTheFamilies.