By: AIF Staff
The American Idea Foundation has long believed that Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program provides a useful example of how the government can move towards evidence-based programming and better allocate resources to more effectively fight poverty. As this home-visitation program is considered for reauthorization by Congress later this year, the American Idea Foundation will push lawmakers to reward MIECHV’s data-driven approach and understand the impact it is having in communities across the country.
MIECHV is a time-intensive, customized approach to helping parents from before their child’s birth through the first years of the child’s life. The First Five Years Fund summarized the program’s approach well, stating:
“Evidence-based home visiting programs, like those made possible by MIECHV, pair families with limited support and resources with trained home visitors such as nurses, social workers, and educators. Home visitors meet with families at home and work with families from pregnancy through their child’s kindergarten entry to help lay the foundation for the health, education, development, and economic self-sufficiency of the entire family. Visits by caring, experienced professionals can turn good intentions into good parenting, breaking generations-long cycles of poverty, addiction, abuse, and despair.”
MIECHV is administered by the federal government through grants to states, territories, and tribes allowing these entities to create voluntary programs, backed by data and evidence, to help families and parents build happy and healthy homes for children. It is results-based and has been subject to more rigorous evaluations than any other single poverty-fighting program.
At a recent hearing held by the House Ways and Means Committee, Congresswoman Jackie Walorski of Indiana highlighted the program’s success – and the reasons for it, saying in part:
“MIECHV is a program that gets results. This program builds upon decades of research that proves home visits by a nurse, social worker, or other trained professional during pregnancy and in the first years of a child’s life help prevent child abuse and neglect, support positive parenting, improve maternal and child health, and promote child development and school readiness….
“The program is now up for reauthorization again this year. What makes MIECHV unique is that funding is tied to evidence. Most federal programs operate in a black box. Less than $1 out of every $100 the government spends is backed by even the most basic evidence that the money is being spent wisely. Unlike most federal social welfare programs, we know what outcomes taxpayers can expect from our investments in MIECHV. This program serves as a model for how other programs for low-income families should be funded.
“For a home visiting model to earn taxpayer support, an evaluation must prove the program has demonstrated significant, positive outcomes such as preventing child abuse and neglect, improving maternal and child health, and improving economic independence…. As we turn to reauthorization, Republican priorities include providing a full 5-year reauthorization to give states and implementing organizations the certainty they need to conduct long-term planning.
“We aim to raise awareness of MIECHV’s high-quality outcomes to promote this time-tested program. And, we must apply lessons learned during the pandemic, specifically from the success of remote visits that grew efficiency while preserving the positive outcomes we expect from this evidence-based model.
“Few federal social programs have been evaluated to determine if they are working, and almost none have conditioned funding on evidence of effectiveness. When we spend limited taxpayer dollars to help those in need, we must ensure we’re investing in programs that deliver results.”
Without question, MIECHV is a bipartisan success story, supported by the administrations of Presidents Bush, Obama, Trump, and now Biden. Most recently, the Biden Administration announced millions in grants via the American Rescue Plan. There was a tremendous amount wrong with the American Rescue Plan, but funding MIECHV at more robust levels was right.
The evidence of MIECHV’s positive impact on children and families has been well-documented and the American Idea Foundation’s visit to a South Carolina Nurse Family Partnership program provided a visual testament to the difference its making in people’s lives.
To learn more about the program’s impact, watch: Lessons from the Front Lines of South Carolina.
The American Idea Foundation believes that the condition of your birth should not determine the outcome of your life, and the MIECHV program provides a worthwhile example of how the federal government, working in tandem with researchers and organizations at the state and local level, can ensure that all children have the opportunity to succeed and lead productive lives. It is an approach that should be replicated as leaders work to meet other pressing policy challenges.