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Child welfare groups call on Congress to fund home visiting programs

Asian Female doctor pediatrician holding stethoscope checkup child newborn baby boy patient
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Asian Female doctor pediatrician holding stethoscope checkup child newborn baby boy patient visit doctor with mother at home, mom protection children medical care concept.

News brief

A federal program helps send nurses and social workers into the homes of thousands of lower-income or at-risk parents across the Mountain West to help before, during and after a birth. However, its funding will come to an end next month if Congress doesn’t act.

It’s called the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program, or MIECHV.

A coalition of hundreds of child welfare organizations – including dozens in the Mountain West – wrote a letter to members of Congress last month asking them to reauthorize its funding, which was about $350 million for fiscal year 2021.

They’re also asking for the program’s first funding increase in nearly a decade, and they want more resources going to tribal nations.

“Currently, Tribal MIECHV receives $12 million annually for the more than 600 eligible Tribes and Tribal‐serving organizations,” the letter states. “To address these inequities, the Home Visiting Coalition recommends doubling the tribal set‐aside within MIECHV from three to six percent to reach more families in [American Indian and Alaska Native] communities.”

Emily Allen is with the nonprofit Idaho Voices for Children, which signed that letter. She said home visiting services have proven results, from improved prenatal health to better readiness for school. However, she said this one federal funding source is necessary for those programs to continue.

“MIECHV in our state is basically the core funding mechanism that allows this to happen. And loss of MIECHV funding in Idaho would essentially collapse the existing infrastructure for home visiting services in our state,” she said.

Beyond that, Allen said home visits can help support families and prevent abusive situations.

MIECHV funding is set to lapse at the end of September.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Madelyn Beck is Boise State Public Radio's regional reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau.