Home visiting programs in South Carolina received federal funding for five more years after the U.S. House and Senate passed a recent budget bill. Neil White, who tells the stories of Children’s Trust, details the efforts that went into renewing these important services for families.
Nobody was happier than Laurie Rovin when the U.S. Congress passed a bipartisan budget bill that was quickly signed into law on the morning of Feb. 9.
The deal renews the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program, and it’s a significant victory for America’s families with young children from birth through age five.
As the executive director of A Child’s Haven, the Greenville-based organization that treats children with developmental delays as a result of limited resources, abuse or neglect, and provides support and education for both children and their families, Rovin knows what the renewed funding means for Upstate families.
“Home visitation is an important element toward meeting A Child’s Haven mission,” Rovin said. “MIECHV funding ensures our ability to provide the critical parental support that is craved by many families who come from challenging situations. The five-year reauthorization of MIECHV enables continuity and our ability to track outcomes.”
As South Carolina’s federal grantee and lead agency for MIECHV since 2010, Children’s Trust supports three home visiting models – Healthy Families America, Nurse-Family Partnership, and Parents as Teachers – in partnership with 16 implementing agencies – including A Child’s Haven – in 41 counties. These evidence-based, voluntary program models serve at-risk, low-income mothers and children by providing them with important resources and skills.
The MIECHV funding reauthorization will allocate by formula approximately $8 million each year over the next five years for Children’s Trust to grant to local partners across the state.
Eric Bellamy, director of program integration at Children’s Trust, was thrilled about the program continuing to positively affect lives. He cited all the home visiting partnering organizations that supported the renewal efforts.
“This did not happen without the tremendous outreach to legislators and the incredible work our partners provide daily in communities across South Carolina,” Bellamy said. “Now it’s time to build a stronger home visiting and early childhood field as we move forward.”
Bellamy traveled to Washington, D.C. in March 2017 to testify from a state’s perspective on MIECHV implementation and administration before the U.S. House Ways and Means Human Resources subcommittee, part of a year-long push for reauthorization of this important program.
He also returned to Washington at the end of January this year as part of the four-member home visiting team at Children’s Trust to advocate to U.S. Sen. Tim Scott for renewal after MIECHV had expired at the end of September 2017. A number of other South Carolina partners also made the trip to talk to lawmakers, including Rovin and Kristen Miller, the nurse manager for McLeod Nurse-Family Partnership in Florence.
After the expiration of funding for this critical program left states, home visitors and families in limbo during the interim months, Miller celebrated the reauthorization and what it means for the mothers, infants and young children served by McLeod NFP in Darlington, Dillon, Chesterfield, Florence and Marlboro counties.
“McLeod Nurse-Family Partnership is incredibly thankful for the MIECHV reauthorization,” Miller said. “This additional funding will allow us to continue our important work improving maternal-child health outcomes, school readiness, and economic self-sufficiency among the moms and babies we serve, thereby helping our communities prosper.”
Rovin calls the home visiting program an essential component of the broader services provided by A Child’s Haven, which implements the Parents as Teachers home visiting model.
“Our model incorporates a three-pronged approach of therapeutic child care, home visitation and parent education via a 12-week support group,” Rovin said. “Incorporating the later elements of engaging parents in their own home, coupled with a peer education group, makes our model innovative and is what ultimately increases one’s opportunity to be successful. For the children, success means a smooth transition into a typical preschool setting. For the parents, it means the ability to effectively parent their child as well as appropriately support their child’s needs.”
Home visitors – who can be nurses, social workers, or child development specialists – support preventive health and prenatal practices, help parents understand developmental milestones, promote the use of positive parenting techniques, and work with mothers to set goals for the future, continue their education, and find employment and child care solutions.
Bellamy states the program, with its support of home visits and pediatric office visits, is especially important during the first 1,000 days of a child’s life.
“The most important thing is seeing these families reach their potential and become self-sufficient,” Bellamy said. “We want children to be healthy, to grow physically and socially, and to be prepared for school. We know these are predictors of later in life. We’ve seen very good outcomes in South Carolina in the first six years of the program through data collection and meeting benchmarks.”
There were 16,125 home visits made in South Carolina during the most recent fiscal year to 2,032 families and 2,071 children. Fewer children in the program were born prematurely, they were sleeping more safely, and they were making far fewer visits to the emergency room – just the kind of results that gave bipartisan support to reauthorization on both sides of the legislative aisle in the U.S. House and Senate.
In addition to A Child’s Haven and McLeod NFP, Children’s Trust provides MIECHV funding to these local implementing agencies across South Carolina: All Children’s Pediatrics; Carolina Health Centers; Eau Claire Cooperative Health Centers; Family Connection of South Carolina; Family Solutions of the Low Country/S.C. Office of Rural Health; Georgetown Pediatric Center, St. James – Santee Family Health Center; Greenville Health System; Little River Medical Center; Low Country Health Care System; Medical University of South Carolina; Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital Outpatient Center; The Parenting Place; S.C Department of Health and Environmental Control – Lowcountry; and Spartanburg County First Steps.
Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting is a program of Children’s Trust of South Carolina and is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under CFDA # 93.870, Grant # X10MC29503. This information or content and conclusions are those of the author and should not be construed as the official position or policy of, nor should any endorsements be inferred by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government.