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Funding for home visiting set to expire, leaving early-intervention services in limbo for many


September 27, 2017
Michael Alison Chandler
The Washington Post

Roxana Avelar De Andrade was new to the United States, with two children and a third on the way. She was feeling stressed and overwhelmed, and during a routine prenatal care visit she burst into tears.

Her health-care provider at Mary’s Center in the District connected her to a support worker, who started visiting her family at home every week to check on her and see how she could help.

More than two years later, she has a curious, talkative toddler and a lot of gratitude for the steady support. “It made me not feel so alone,” she said.

Home-visiting programs, such as the one that Avelar De Andrade is involved in, pair low-income struggling parents with trained nurses, social workers or educators, who provide support throughout the stressful first years of their children’s lives. Through regular visits, the support workers provide resources to help families with basic needs and teach habits and skills to parents to promote the healthy development of their children.

These early-intervention programs have grown in the past few decades alongside research showing the first years to be a critical time for brain development. President Barack Obama included home visiting in his first budget, and the program got a jolt of federal funding through the Affordable Care Act in 2010 with $1.5 billion in state grants. The legislation, which has been extended twice, is set to expire at the end of the month.

Bills have been introduced in the House and Senate, and the program has bipartisan support. But now, with the clock running down, advocates are scrambling to get something passed in time to preserve these support services for an estimated 150,000 families.