Department of Human Services’ (DHS) Acting Secretary Teresa Miller recently visited Columbia County Family Center, part of the Pennsylvania Family Center network, to observe its evidence-based home visiting program. The center in Bloomsburg provides early childhood and prenatal home visiting to ensure families have the support and services they need to provide a holistic and healthy home environment.
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 on children’s cognitive development and behavior, higher grade point averages and achievement scores at age nine, and higher graduation rates from high school.
To support vulnerable families throughout the commonwealth, Governor Wolf’s 2018-19 budget proposal includes $4 million to expand evidenced-based home visiting focused on communities impacted most by the opioid epidemic, as well as $2 million to increase funding for Community-Based Family Centers and Nurse-Family Partnership. These investments build upon a $5 million expansion of evidence-based home visiting in 2017-18 to reach approximately 900 more families.
“We know that the opioid epidemic does not just affect individuals in isolation; it can have a profound effect on their families,” Miller said. “The Columbia County Family Center is an example of work being done to keep children healthy and safe. By giving parents in treatment the tools to assist them in meeting their child’s needs, we hope to reduce the number of children entering out-of-home care while we support the parents’ recovery.”
Home visiting can improve parents’ knowledge and skills, help develop social support systems, and improve access to education, health, and community services. Providing education, resources, and referral strategies to agencies that support parents struggling with an opioid use or substance use disorder and to home visiting programs gives families a stronger support network.
Examples of services include:
- Regularly scheduled home visits with trained family development specialists;
- Monthly parent meetings; and
- Routine screenings to detect early problems with vision, hearing, growth, and learning.