SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - The clock is ticking on federal funding that helps struggling parents with young children.
The Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program will expire in March unless Congress takes action. A coalition of 750 organizations, including 36 in Illinois, has sent a letter asking that the program continue as it has for decades.
Karen Howard, vice president for early-childhood policy at First Focus Campaign for Children, said the home-visiting always has had bipartisan support.
Research has shown that voluntary home visits, usually conducted by nurses or social workers, can prevent serious problems and learning deficits, Howard said, "and is a real effective strategy for, particularly low-income families and women, building up their knowledge base and their self-esteem so that they can be capable parents."
There's also a payoff. Howard pointed to a RAND Corp. report that found home=visiting programs saved up to $6 for every $1 invested.
Howard said many parents are very young, experienced abuse or neglect as children, are disconnected from their parents or have aged out of the foster system. The home-visiting professionals offer nonjudgmental support, Howard said, "having someone who is your mentor, coach, health advocatem and helping you to cope, and helping you to feel like you can be successful in this new role."
The American Academy of Pediatrics, Prevent Child Abuse America and Salvation Army are among the national organizations that signed the letter. Among the Illinois groups signing are the Illinois Headstart Association, Illinois Action for Children and the Ounce of Prevention Fund.
Funding nationally has been at about $400 million a year.
The letter is online at campaignforchildren.org.