OPINION Congress must act now to strengthen our families

Wed October 25, 2017 06:24:35 AM EST

Reverend Lawrence Long, III

 

OPINION

Congress must act now to strengthen our families

By Reverend Lawrence Long, III

 

On September 30, Congressional inaction jeopardized a program that has helped thousands of young women and men in Ohio become more responsible parents.  Known as the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV), it connects families with nurses and trained mentors who help them prepare for parenting challenges and make their homes safe for children.  While the House passed a MIECHV reauthorization in late September, Congress wasn’t able to act on final passage before the program expired..

 

From its bipartisan inception in 2010, the program has had a remarkable impact on Ohio families. That currently includes families in 27 counties, including Montgomery, where home visiting services are funded by MIECHV. 

 

These services are especially important to parents and kids in low income families. Participating moms and dads learn about prenatal care, the importance of avoiding tobacco, alcohol and other drugs, how to deal with stressful situations, such as incessant crying, how to make their homes safe for children and more. Home visiting programs also offer counseling to encourage young parents to stay in school, seek employment, and improve chances for self-sufficiency by planning future pregnancies.

 

All of this matters greatly to me as a spiritual leader who recognizes that the fabric of our communities is woven through strong families. That happens when parents are both prepared and empowered, and when children are raised in nurturing environments that set a standard for life. 

 

I also view home visiting as a reflection of biblical teachings in Titus 4:2-3, in which Paul tells us that we who are experienced in parenting must coach our younger neighbors who are not. As someone who expects results for taxpayer supported services I appreciate voluntary home visiting’s proven outcomes. 

 

Research on one initiative that receives this funding – the Nurse-Family Partnership – shows nearly 50 percent reductions in child abuse among families who participated nationwide, and nearly 40 percent reductions in childhood injuries. This outcome is especially important here in Ohio, where more than 23,000 children were confirmed victims of abuse or neglect in one recent year alone. 

 

These benefits for young children are complemented by extraordinary self-sufficiency outcomes among adults. That means an 82 percent increase in employment among mothers who participated in Nurse-Family Partnership programs compared to women who did not, and a 68 percent increase in family engagement among fathers who participated in these programs. 

 

Similar results have been achieved by Healthy Families America, Parents as Teachers and Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters. All of these programs also give parents tangible ways to develop pre-literacy and pre-math skills so children have a strong foundation for long-term success in school. 

 

Those of us seeking fiscal responsibility will also be glad to know that analysis of home visiting programs funded by MIECHV can save society over $6,000 over the lifetime of participating children based on reductions in child abuse and neglect and involvement in the criminal justice system, and on employment outcomes for kids and parents. Equally important – the future of Ohio’s home visiting programs depend on MIECHV, which has provided more than $38 million to our state since 2010. 

 

Let me share with you the story of Lauren, a young mother in the Cincinnati area benefitting from home visiting. 

 

Prior to starting with Cincinnati’s Every Child Succeeds home visiting program, Lauren had struggled with heroin addiction. She reported an extensive history of drug use and involvement with the court system, and had even lost custody of several of her children due to her addiction. That’s when things changed for Lauren. She was homeless and living in a shelter when she decided to enroll in a rehab program. While in rehab, Lauren discovered she was pregnant. She decided that this time it was going to be different — she was not going to lose this child to the child welfare system. She was going to do everything possible to change her life. Lauren sought out many resources, one of them being Every Child Succeeds, funded by the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting program (MIECHV). Lauren enrolled during pregnancy. Although, at times, she has gotten overwhelmed, Lauren’s commitment to doing what’s best for her child has never wavered. Through the MIECHV program and her home visitor, Lauren has gotten the support for her parenting that she needed. Both Lauren and her child’s father have continued their drug rehab treatment. They also moved out of the shelter and were able to find an apartment and employment. Both parents are engaged in their child’s development and I leave you with this quote from Pam Albers. RN, MS, Director of Help Me Grow Brighter Futures here in Dayton:

“I urge you to reauthorize funding for MIECHV with an incremental increase from $400 million up to $800 million over 5 years on a suitable legislative vehicle that may be enacted this year. 

 

As a cornerstone of evidence-based policy, MIECHV funds a diverse array of evidence-based programs like NFP, enabling millions of children and families to have access to evidence-based home visiting services that break cycles of poverty and produce real economic dividends to our nation.  These programs demonstrate improvements in a range of outcomes, including prenatal health, early childhood development, and educational achievement, as well as reductions in child abuse and neglect, juvenile delinquency, crime and dependence on public assistance.“

 

With all of this in mind, I urge Senators Portman and Brown to work with Congressional Leadership to ensure a bipartisan reauthorization of MIECHV. Senator Brown is a co-sponsor of the MIECHV reauthorization bill in the Senate, and Senator Portman has spoken often in support of MIECHV.  This is an important program to help more children to grow up in strong families and lay the groundwork for strong communities nationwide. We call on Congress to reauthorize MIECHV without delay.

 

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Reverend Lawrence Long III is a Dayton-area minister and businessman




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