WASHINGTON -- Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland and Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio today introduced bipartisan legislation to re-authorize the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program. The Strong Families Act of 2017, S. 1829, re-authorizes this program providing grants to states, territories, and tribal entities to develop and implement evidence-based, voluntary programs to improve maternal and child health, prevent child abuse, and promote child development and school readiness.
“The program that serves so many mothers and children has enjoyed bipartisan support because it embraces a common sense idea,” Grassley said. “It provides states with the resources to design programs that work best for their communities to support children and families. It gives parents access to professional expertise to help them improve their skills. When kids do well early in life, they’re on a good path to become successful adults.”
“Families participating in this program have benefitted from the support provided by nurses, social workers, and others to improve their family’s well-being,” Menendez said. "Last year, 7,096 families in New Jersey benefitted from MIECHV and with this bipartisan bill, it is my hope that many thousands more will be able to access the important tools and resources provided through the home visits.”
“Home visiting programs provide children and parents in at-risk communities the tools they need to be safe, healthy, and successful,” Blunt said. “These programs have a demonstrated success rate of improving outcomes for maternal, newborn, and infant health, reducing child abuse, promoting school readiness, and furthering academic achievement for parents. I urge my colleagues to support the Strong Families Act to ensure these programs continue to provide services to local communities.”
“I am pleased to support the Strong Families Act to reauthorize the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program,” Casey said. “Home visiting programs provide evidence-based support to young and vulnerable families, strengthening those families so that the children have a strong start to life. Continuing this program is a sound federal investment for our future.”
“This bipartisan legislation will ensure mothers and their children continue to have access to resources for maternal and child health and childhood development that is critical to their well-being,” Gardner said. “Providing states with the funding and flexibility to implement programs that improve the lives of mothers and their children will result in the best outcomes for our communities. I thank Senator Grassley for his leadership and am proud to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle on this important legislation.”
“We are making a difference in the lives of at-risk families through the Maternal Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program. The program’s evidence-based, culturally-appropriate, and individually-tailored services helps us reach into diverse communities. It is no wonder that there is such bipartisan support to continue to strengthen this program,” Cardin said.
“The Home Visiting Program supports Ohio families to ensure the health and well-being of children across our state,” Brown said. “This program makes a difference in the lives of Ohio families who need it most, and this federal support will help strengthen this program in our communities.”
The Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program supports at-risk pregnant women and families and helps the parents of children from birth to kindergarten with home visits by a nurse, social worker, early childhood educator or other trained professional to improve maternal and child health, prevent child abuse and neglect, increase positive parenting, and enhance child development and school readiness.
The senators’ bill provides a five-year extension of the program. In addition, it includes program integrity elements to require delivery models to continue to demonstrate positive outcomes, require statewide needs assessments in order to best target resources, to improve the likelihood of success in high-risk communities, and data exchange standards for improved interoperability.
The bill falls under the jurisdiction of the Finance Committee, where several of the original cosponsors serve. Grassley is former chairman.
Advocates support the program and its re-authorization.
“The MIECHV program has been a critical part of Iowa’s efforts to prevent abuse and neglect,” said Liz Cox, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Iowa. “The five-year commitment to the MIECHV program is an investment in prevention that has long-term results. In Iowa, continuing the program will mean continued increases in employment among primary caregivers, more young mothers will earn their high school degree, and more newborns and toddlers will have a healthier start in life with caregivers who can better respond to their developmental needs.”
“We are grateful to Senators Grassley and Menendez for making children and families a priority. This bill provides a bipartisan path to the reauthorization of MIECHV, a program that is proven to work for the children and families that depend on it, before it expires on September 30th,” said Diedra Henry-Spires, CEO of the Dalton-Daley Group and co-convener of the Home Visiting Coalition.
The bill text is available