Campaign supports home visiting programs

Of just over 7,800 children under the age of 6 in Lycoming County, nearly half are members of low-income families. Of those, only 201 are served by publicly funded, evidence-based home visiting programs, according to Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children.

“Unfortunately, the numbers in Lycoming are sort of standard for what we see across the state,” said Kari King, president and CEO. “So, really, what this underscores is the data is showing the families are out there and they’re waiting for these services.”

Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, an independent nonprofit with a goal of improving the health, education and well-being of children across the state, recently launched the Childhood Begins at Home campaign to help children, especially those who are underserved, develop into healthy adults.

“We’re trying to highlight the importance of additional support for evidence-based home visiting programs,” King said, adding such programs focus on maternal and child health, meeting developmental milestones, literacy and more.

The campaign is designed to help policymakers and community members alike understand the value of evidence-based home visiting and effective ways to support young families.

There are six evidence-based home visiting models throughout the state: Early Head Start, Family Check-Up, Healthy Families America, Nurse-Family Partnership, Parents as Teachers and SafeCare Augmented.

Of those, two are active in the county — Early Head Start and Nurse-Family Partnership.

These programs work with women, families and children as early as the beginning of pregnancy to promote positive birth outcomes and provide parent education and support using both public and private funds to make visits and education possible, King said.

With the Childhood Begins at Home campaign, the partnership hopes to increase state investment into these evidence-based programs by $5 million in the 2019-20 budget, potentially helping 800 more families and children, she said.

“What’s kind of attractive is that’s really a small number, but the impact is enormous,” King said, referring to $5 million in the grand scheme of the state’s budget. “You see a pretty significant return on investment.”

Parents are less likely to rely on public assistance and children are less likely to make bad decisions later in their lives, which could result in jail time or other expensive services, she explained.

“We’re investing at that point with the understanding that, down the road, we’re not going to have to invest more as the child gets older,” she said.

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