Voices’ Blog

Virginia’s Future Depends on Home Visiting Programs

Posted:  -  By: Voices for VA's Kids

Voices policy analyst Emily Griffey, who specializes in early childhood and education issues, blogs about considerations Virginia should examine related to home visiting programs:

I recently read that the U.S. population under the age of one consists of more children from racial and ethnic minorities than non-minorities for the first time ever. The population under age one is now majority-minority. This fact got me thinking of how Virginia is preparing for when the majority of our infants are also from minority populations and the implications that may have for preparing children who live in families of English language learners and potentially disadvantaged backgrounds to learn. One way we can ensure that children born in Virginia today are getting the support and resources they need to succeed in school and our future workforce is by connecting their families to home visiting programs.

Virginia has a long tradition of evidence-based home visiting programs through the Healthy Families Virginia Program and CHIP of Virginia. The Commonwealth’s home visiting programs have many strengths, including: a solid backing in research; strong support of capacity building and professional development; and effective implementation in many communities.

Virginia is the recipient of federal expansion funding for home visiting through the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Project (MIECHV). These funds will allow evidence-based programs in Virginia — such as Healthy Families, CHIP/Parents As Teachers, Early Head Start and the Nurse-Family Partnership — to receive additional funding in order to expand services in the communities of greatest need. The funds are targeted to communities identified as have poor community outcomes on multiple factors of maternal and child health.

While needs for home visiting has increased as families struggle to make ends meet, programs have had to be responsive to the changing needs of families in Virginia. Many programs have added bilingual staff and have received training on cultural competencies. These skills are important to serve parents of various needs; combined with these evidence-based programs, they serve as important layers of responsive service delivery on top of programs that work.

Another thing that communities can do to better serve children from minority races and ethnicities is to look at the various programs operating in a community and understand which are best suited to serve families. Richmond City has an innovative model in this area: they operate a referral center that links parents identified in need of home visiting services to the appropriate program based on the age of the children, stage of pregnancy or other needs. This model allows families to be matched to programs with the best fit for their needs An approach that is responsive to the needs of the community and provides flexible options for families is certainly a direction Virginia should consider in order to serve an increasingly diverse community. As we debate where to invest scarce resources, proven programs with track records of success, and ones that can accommodate ever-changing needs of families, are critical investments to put Virginia on the path toward future success.


for questions or comments, you can reach Emily by email: emily@vakids.org

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