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Home Visiting Lauded at State Capitol

March 3, 2014
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First 5 LA Executive Director Kim Belshé joined last week with Assemblymember Richard Pan, Senator Carol Liu, Assemblymember Anthony Rendon, and other notable children's health, education, and safety advocates to educate and inform the public and elected members about the many benefits derived from Voluntary Home Visiting programs currently taking place in California.

A press conference and informational briefing were held in the State Capitol and hosted by Assemblymember Pan, featuring experts on infant/maternal health, education and public safety, along with those that have personally participated in Voluntary Home Visiting, or HV.

"HV fosters optimal outcomes for families and makes connections to critical services, enhances safety in the home, improves nutrition for families, it breaks isolation, increases breastfeeding rates, leads to a higher quality learning environment and a decreased likelihood of developmental delays," Belshé said at the press conference. "Working together, we can build strong children and a healthier California."

Home Visiting programs offer family support and coaching and include a broad range of services, such as consultations for pregnant women, newborn visits, and health and education services for children up to 5 years old and their families. Studies and research demonstrate that providing support and information during the first five years of a child's development results in improved family and child outcomes, including healthier children, increased school readiness, improved maternal health, and fewer children in social welfare and juvenile corrections systems. Home Visiting programs often reduce newborn readmissions and emergency room services. As a result, studies show, home visiting programs lead to significant cost savings at the county, state and federal levels.

In Los Angeles, First 5 LA has committed $13.7 million in fiscal year 2013-14 for its Welcome Baby home visiting program, as well as $5 million for other evidence-based family support services in its Best Start communities, First 5 LA's place-based investment initiative. First 5 LA expects to serve more than 38,000 babies each year by 2016. Statewide, 22 First 5 County Commissions invested almost $56 million in home visiting programs to about 27,000 families in 2014.

"First 5 Commissions have been investing in HV, but it is time to get this on the radar, and the results need to be better known," said Assemblymember Pan, who is also a pediatrician. "This is an opportunity to think long-term and strategically, and this program has shown long-term benefits. (There is) nothing like actually being able to visit the home on the ground, and to break the social isolation families face."

Armando Jimenez, director of Research and Evaluation at First 5 LA, expanded on that thought.

"HV offers opportunities to model behaviors and build connections between family and community," Jimenez said. "We want to build upon the strengths that are already there in a family. Sometimes it is extremely difficult to access services. HV can act as a bridge and facilitator to be sure families are connected."

Home Visiting also improves public safety, said Merced County District Attorney Larry Morse. He pointed to the remarkable research performed by the Nurse Family Partnership that supports Home Visiting programs. According to Morse, children who were abused and neglected had almost twice the odds of being arrested as a juvenile while HV cuts arrest of at-risk kids by 59 percent.

Teresita Saucedo, a Sacramento-based parent from the Birth and Beyond program at La Familia, said HV made a big difference in her son, and that she was able to change her parenting to better bond and communicate with her children and develop more empathy.

"I was told that my son had autism," Teresita said. "The Home Visitor came with me to the service and assessment center and helped me with translation. I was able to educate my son in special education services. My son has more focus now. Now he speaks clearly and often. I am thankful for the Birth and Beyond program. My son just got an evaluation from the school and he is doing very well. This is real life."


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