Legislation Introduced Regarding Expansion of Accountable Home Visiting Programs as a Child Protection Strategy

Mar 13, 2013, 22:14 ET from TexProtects

AUSTIN, Texas, March 13, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- TexProtects, The Texas Association for the Protection of Children, hosted a news conference today at the Texas State Capitol to emphasize the need for funding that would result in an increase in state-funded home visits for families who are at the highest risk for a variety of child-related problems. At the conference, Representative John Zerwas, M.D., Chair of the House Appropriations subcommittee on Health and Human Services, announced a legislative plan to address the need for a state-funded home visitation program and accountability for those programs. Additionally, Madeline McClure, executive director of TexProtects, announced the results of a TexProtects home visiting impact report, which demonstrates, among other findings, the high return on investments from home visiting programs.

Home Visiting Programs
Home visiting programs match parents with specially trained professionals to provide information and support during pregnancy and during their child's early years, which is a critical developmental period. These children have been exposed to one or more risk factors that lead to negative consequences. Risk factors include preterm birth, poverty, low parental education, having a teenaged mother or father, poor maternal health, and parental underemployment or unemployment.

The continued rise in child abuse and poverty in Texas has vastly increased the number of at-risk Texan families in need of home visitation support. Currently, there are more than 476,000 families with at least one risk factor, but state funding only supports home visits for approximately 2,300 families—less than 1 percent of those in need. Locally, federally and private-funded programs currently serve about 3.5 percent of those in need.

The home visiting funding request aimed at prevention equals about 1.1 percent of what Texas spends in responding to child abuse and neglect reports. Texas Child Protective Services (CPS) spends approximately $2.4 billion each biennium; the funding request for home visits is $27 million, which would expand the program, reduce the number of children entering the CPS system and result in savings for the state.

High-quality home visiting programs can result in a wide array of outcomes for families and children, including:

  • Reductions in infant deaths and premature births
  • Reductions in childhood injuries, emergency room visits and child abuse and neglect
  • Improvements in language development and cognitive abilities
  • Improvements in family economic self-sufficiency
  • Reductions in crime

"Raising infants and toddlers can be a daunting task for any parent, but if you are a teenager with a new child, and having trouble finding work, it can be especially tough," said Judge John Specia, Commissioner of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. "If we can get professionals in these homes in these very early critical days and weeks, these young parents are more likely to become good parents, and caring parents, and hopefully avoid the terrible cycle of abuse and neglect."

Legislative Remedies Proposed
The Senate bill (SB 426) as introduced ensures accountability that home visiting programs achieve outcomes shown in research trials under the auspices of the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC). Separately, the $27.4 million budget request will expand Texas' reach to 8.5 percent of those families most in need. TexProtects estimates that while most of the home visiting programs will show net savings to the state after five years, the cost of one home visiting program can be recovered in a single year with savings from fewer child maltreatments, fewer out-of-home placements and fewer hospitalizations.

"Home visit programs serve an important role in Texas," said Senator Jane Nelson. "These proactive programs support at-risk parents with the goal of protecting children and preserving families."

Senator Nelson, and co-authors Senator Bob Deuell and Senator Royce West, have authored SB 426—the Home Visiting Expansion and Accountability Act—that would provide the infrastructure for implementing an accountability system to ensure that the State places priority on investing in evidence-based programs that produce positive impacts.    

"The overwhelming need for home visits largely outweighs the current support capabilities that the state can provide these high-risk families," Rep. Zerwas said. "This legislation will encourage the success of our families and our Texas children, and I am proud to support this legislation."

Findings from the TexProtects Report on Home Visiting in Texas
TexProtects announced findings from a study to determine the impact of home visitation on high-risk families in Texas. The report provides a blueprint for targeting the highest-risk families in Texas where there is the lowest services available with programs that have the highest efficacy and the highest return on investment.

Results across current programs demonstrate that having a portfolio of high-quality home visiting programs provides potential benefits across a wide-range of issues that affect children, families and the broader society. These benefits include better care for children and their parents, children who are safer and more successful as adults, and measureable savings for taxpayers.

A copy of the full report from TexProtects is available at www.texprotects.org.

Contact: Meg Meo or Levente Smith
Elizabeth Christian & Associates Public Relations, 512-472-9599 or
mmeo@echristianpr.com or lsmith@echristianpr.com

SOURCE TexProtects