McKnew: Home-visiting program a great investment

May 8, 2014 

Tami McKnew

— All parents want their kids to have a healthy start in life, and many of us learn — the hard way — that providing that healthy start is a harder job than we expect. The luckiest of us find help from our own parents, but many of South Carolina’s newest families rely on home visits by nurses and other professionals to help guide them in nutrition, safety and child development. Those home-visiting programs improve the health and development of our youngest kids, while saving substantial taxpayer dollars in the long run.

The Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program is a well-functioning partnership between state government, federal government and the private sector, which funds programs that have been rigorously tested with proven track records. Most significantly, it works.

The federal government provides the funds to the state, which through the steady leadership of the Children’s Trust allocates them to the organizations that provide home-visiting programs. That model serves children in all 50 states and more than 600 counties, including at least 23 here in South Carolina. It also puts a priority on funding organizations that have powerful records of results for the children and families they serve, allowing governments to leverage their limited funding for high impact. Home-visiting programs funded by the program have been shown to reduce medical complications, reduce later needs for remedial education and increase new families’ self-sufficiency. For more information on this research, go to instituteforchildsuccess.org.

The Home Visiting Program also is well-liked by people on both sides of the aisle. Like most federal programs, though, it must be re-funded through the federal budget process. (Thankfully, Congress reauthorized the program earlier this month, allowing it to proceed to that budget process.) We’ve all seen how unpredictable the federal budget process has become, increasing anxiety over the future of the program. If funding falters, South Carolina’s most at-risk and youngest children will suffer the consequences in Abbeville, Aiken, Barnwell, Berkeley, Charleston, Colleton, Darlington, Dillon, Dorchester, Edgefield, Florence, Greenville, Greenwood, Lexington, Marlboro, McCormick, Oconee, Orangeburg, Pickens, Richland, Saluda, Spartanburg and Union counties.

We sincerely hope that South Carolina’s congressional delegation will help protect this program. It’s good for South Carolina’s youngest kids, their families and the taxpayers.

Tami McKnew

Chair, Institute for Child Success

Greenville

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