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Human Services Secretary Highlights Home Visiting Programs at Strengthening Families Conference 

by PA Department of Human Serivces

May 08, 2019
Supporting families and children

State College, PA – Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller highlighted the value of evidence-based home-visiting programs at the Strengthening Families Conference in State College. During the conference, participants are discussing best practices and innovative ways to provide supports to parents and children and participating in interactive workshops on topics such as self-care, supporting children’s brain development, promoting literacy, and more.

“We all think parenting should be instinctual and that we all naturally have the tools we need to raise a child, but parenting is a tough job and kids don’t come with a manual,” said Secretary Miller. “Early childhood and prenatal home-visiting programs provide families with the support and services they need to bond with and understand their child as they grow and monitor progress in meeting developmental milestones.”

Governor Tom Wolf has increased the state investment in home-visiting by nearly $15 million during his tenure. A total of $51.9 million is allocated in the 2018-2019 budget through a combination of state and federal funding. In 2018-2019, more than 15,000 children will receive evidence-based home-visiting services supported through federal and state funding. The proposed 2019-2020 budget includes investing $5 million in state funds to allow an additional 800 families to receive evidence-based home-visiting services.

Evidence-based home-visiting family support programs have a family-centered focus and strength-based approach that works with both the child and parent. Studies of various home visiting programs have shown positive impacts for the mother and baby during pregnancy and after birth, such as a decrease in domestic violence and smoking during pregnancy, a significant decrease in pre-term births, and a majority of babies being born at a healthy weight.

Home-visiting can also improve parents’ child development knowledge and skills, help develop social support systems, and improve access to education, health, and community services. Examples of services include:

  • Regularly scheduled home visits with trained family development specialists;
  • Monthly parent meetings; and
  • Routine screenings to detect potential problems with vision, hearing, growth, and learning.

DHS’ Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) currently supports five evidence-based home visiting programs: Early Head Start, Healthy Families America, Nurse Family Partnership (NFP), Parents as Teachers (PAT), and Family Check-Up.

Gov. Wolf’s 2019-2020 budget proposal includes an investment of $15 million in federal funds to reduce the child care subsidy waiting list and enable access to high-quality child care for 970 infants and toddlers. This investment will allow parents to return to work and help our youngest Pennsylvanians access early education during a critical time in their development.

“As someone who has used these services in my own home, I know first-hand how valuable home-visiting can be to help parents understand their child, better respond to their needs, gauge milestones, and learn about community resources,” said Secretary Miller.

For more information on home visiting programs, visit www.papartnerships.org.

To learn more about DHS initiatives in Governor Wolf’s 2019-20 budget, visit here.

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