A new report from the Pew Center says states should invest in research-backed home visiting programs, because early intervention will save money in the long run. The study also found that states that are investing in the programs too rarely use evidence of effectiveness to inform policy decisions. Home visiting programs are voluntary. Low income and young women sign up when they are pregnant, and home visitors make sure expectant mothers are taking care of themselves. After infants are born, the program continues to help the woman cope with being new mothers, maximize the infants' development, and find community and health resources. Libby Doggett, director of the Pew Home Visiting Campaign, says the program doesn't end there. "These programs help mothers get their lives together. We know that when you have a really good home visiting program we see an 83% increase in employment by the child's fourth birthday, we see a 20% reduction in welfare use."
She says effective programs are backed by 30 to 40 years of research that distill best practices. Doggett says they found that while states were spending a significant amount of money—$1.4 billion—there were sigificant issues. "They (the states) weren't able to account for about 40% of the available funds." But more money is on the way. The federal government is giving $1.5 billion over five years, to Pennsylvania and other states. The report calls on states to target the most at-risk families, monitor the money, look at outcomes, and expand to reach more women.
The report can be found at pewcenteronthestates.org.