If you’ve been following the news about health care reform this week, you’re probably well aware of some of the many changes on the horizon, like pre-existing conditions that will no longer prevent kids from getting coverage, or tax credits that will make coverage more affordable.
Tucked within health care reform, there’s a big win for kids and families that you probably haven’t heard much about: $1.5 billion in grants states will compete for over the next five years to improve home visiting programs, which provide new and expectant parents with valuable support services that help them get their children off to the best possible start in life.
If Washington wins just one-fiftieth of the initial $100 million in grants, we could almost triple our state’s general-fund investment in home visiting programs.
Evidence-based home visiting programs are provided by early learning and nursing professionals. These programs – which are also supported by local governments and private funders – have lowered rates of child abuse and neglect and improved kids’ chances of starting school ready to learn.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will be awarding the first round of grants as early as October. The feds will likely ask Gov. Chris Gregoire to appoint an agency to run the grant program. (The Council for Children and Families currently oversees state-funded home visiting programs.)
The first key deadline is just six months away. By mid-September, Washington will have to submit a report outlining which communities would benefit most from home-visiting programs. States will also have to point out areas where access to existing home-visiting programs is limited. The feds will then decide which states will get grants and how much money each state will receive.
States that win home visiting grants will have to show progress in several areas after three years, including maternal and child health, prevention of child abuse and neglect, reduced crime or domestic violence, and school readiness.
Because funding is so low, only a small fraction of eligible families in Washington state are receiving the many support services that home visiting programs provide.
This new grant money is a major opportunity. The Children’s Alliance and other members of our state’s Home Visiting Coalition will be working closely with state policymakers and administrators, doing whatever we can to make sure Washington wins money that will help home-visiting programs serve more families.
Children’s Alliance advocacy for home visiting in Washington is supported by the Pew Center on the States, a division of The Pew Charitable Trusts that identifies and advances effective solutions to critical issues facing states. Pew is a nonprofit organization that applies a rigorous, analytical approach to improve public policy, inform the public and stimulate civic life. Learn more about Pew’s home visiting work.
For more information on Children’s Alliance work on home visiting,
contact Lauren Platt, firstname.lastname@example.org
or at (206) 324-0340 ext. 29.