‘Childhood Begins at Home’ Campaign Supports Development, Safety of Chester County Families

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Family support advocates – including Milena Lanz, Executive Director of the Chester County Maternal and Child Health Consortium, and Bruce Clash, the Pennsylvania State Director of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids – recently discussed the “Childhood Begins at Home” campaign at MCHC in West Chester.

The campaign, which supports the development and safety of Pennsylvania children and families through evidence-based home visiting programs, released county findings that are truly sobering:

  • Only 15 percent of Chester County babies born on Medicaid received the appropriate evidence-based home visiting services following their birth last year.
  • Only four percent of children living in low-income families and 27 percent of children born to a mother without a high school diploma received evidence-based home visiting proven to improve family economic security and early literacy.
  • Only 74 percent of Chester County children under age six known to the child welfare system received the appropriate evidence-based home visiting services last year to reduce the likelihood of future child abuse and neglect.

Evidence-based home visiting has been proven to improve family health, literacy, and economic security, as well as reduce child abuse and neglect.

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Childhood Begins at Home is designed to help policymakers and the public understand the value of evidence-based home visiting and effective ways to support young families. Campaign partners are encouraging state and federal lawmakers to continue to build on the strong investments they have made in evidence-based home visiting and to increase the investment to help more Pennsylvania children and families. The partners are:

  • Fight Crime: Invest in Kids
  • Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children
  • Maternity Care Coalition
  • Pennsylvania Head Start Association
  • Pennsylvania Nurse-Family Partnership
  • Pennsylvania Parents as Teachers
  • Trying Together

Home visiting programs recognize parents are children’s first teachers, but sometimes even parents need help. Nurses and other trained professionals visit with women, families, and children as early as the beginning of pregnancy to promote positive birth outcomes and provide parent education and support, ultimately promoting child health, well-being, learning, and development.

“The research is clear: Home visiting services can reap strong rewards, and that’s why we must increase public funding to support these programs,” said Clash. “Ask anyone who has ever been a parent, and you will hear that parenting is the most rewarding, but also the most challenging job he or she ever had.

“Many parents benefit from strong family supports and adequate resources. However, for some parents, especially those who are young and of modest means, parenthood is more complicated. Home visiting helps by reducing child abuse and neglect and improving family health, education, and economic security.”

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There are presently four evidence-based models currently using about $50 million in state and federal funds to provide home visiting services in Pennsylvania: Early Head Start, Healthy Families America, Nurse-Family Partnership, and Parents as Teachers. All but Healthy Families America serve families in Chester County.

“When families benefit from these programs, they are better equipped to provide a home environment that is conducive to the child’s overall development,” said Lanz. “Home visiting programs create an environment for families to learn, which improves child development and school readiness.”

“Nurse-Family Partnership offers new parents the opportunity to benefit from the expertise and support of a personal nurse as they enter a time of many changes and challenges,” said Patricia Yoder, Maternal-Child Health Supervisor for the Chester County Health Department. “It is powerful to see strong relationships grow between nurse home visitors and parents, enabling families to nurture their young child’s health, development, and well-being.”

“The 200 district attorneys, police chiefs, and sheriffs throughout Pennsylvania who are members of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids are certainly tough on crime, but they also know that we can’t just arrest and prosecute our way out of the crime problem,” said Clash. “They recognize that we need to be proactive and help at-risk families and young children with proven supports. Much of what law enforcement leaders deal with every day can unfortunately be traced to inadequate parenting and home lives.”

The goal of the Childhood Begins at Home campaign this year is to increase understanding among policymakers and the public to garner support for a $6.5 million increase in the 2018-2019 state budget. These evidence-based programs will provide tools and resources to families raising young children. The programs are intended to provide educational resources and tools to improve healthcare and literacy, promote self-sufficiency, and prevent child abuse. The budget increase would expand these services to reach an additional 800 families and fund training for professionals to better serve these families.

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