Lexi was 19, homeless, and living in a van with her husband when she found out she was pregnant. She considered moving across the country to live with her family, but she knew it would be unhealthy to raise her baby in the same unstable environment she grew up in. Lexi wanted to provide the best care possible for her son, but wasn’t sure how to overcome the obstacles she was facing.
Lexi’s friend told her about a service that provides critical parenting support to vulnerable children and families – voluntary home visiting programs. These programs offer trained parenting coaches to new families so they can learn ways to nurture and educate their child, and keep them healthy and safe.
After her son’s birth, Lexi signed up for the voluntary home visiting program. The home visitor came to the couple’s van and talked to them without judgment. Lexi was worried about bonding with her son because she had to start work at six weeks postpartum. The home visitor helped her set goals to build their relationship and supported Lexi in a non-invasive way. Eventually, the home visitor helped the family find a home and secure better jobs. Lexi said of her experience, “Home visiting programs have meant the world to me. We feel now like we’re doing the very best we can.”
Research has shown that home visiting programs improve maternal and child health outcomes, decrease incidents of child maltreatment, improve school readiness, strengthen family stability, and increase self-sufficiency. Home visiting programs are also cost effective: every $1 investment yields a $3 return. Money spent on these programs now means money saved on welfare, the foster care system, mental health treatment programs, or the criminal justice system later.
Oregon has been a leader in this field since 1993 when Healthy Families Oregon was founded. Additional programs across the state that provide these critical services include Nurse Family Partnership, Early Head Start, Babies First, CaCoon, Maternity Case Management, and Relief Nurseries.
Despite Oregon’s gains in home visiting, only 20% of eligible families are currently being served. On Monday, December 12, United for Kids partner Fight Crime: Invest in Kids presented to the House Interim Committee on Education, advocating for support and resources to strengthen home visiting programs across the state. United for Kids and its partners will continue to represent the voices of the parents and children whose lives have been transformed because of these critical services. We invite you to stay engaged throughout the 2017 Legislative Session, which starts February 1, and watch for updates as we support this critical work.