Like many parents, when I first held my daughter, I had two thoughts. First, I loved him so much I thought my heart was going to explode. But I had an equally overwhelming simultaneous thought – what do I do now and will I be a good mother? You see, I was abused as a child and wanted to make sure my daughter was protected in every way possible. As a mother, and due to my previous experiences, I know that adjusting to parenthood is a dramatic life change that no parenting book or advice could truly prepare us for.
I am also a public health expert, I know that to research refers to parenthood as “one of the most massive reorganizations throughout life, altering the brains, endocrine systems, behaviors, identities, relationships, etc., of everyone involved. »
Now, as the leader of a non-profit organization dedicated to preventing child abuse, I know that evidence-based home visiting programs are a game-changer for parents adjusting to the parenting – especially for those living in underrepresented communities and parents who have limited access to pre- and postnatal resources and support.
To research shows us that home visits are a powerful and effective strategy for preventing child maltreatment. Home visits include expert in-home support for pregnant mothers and new parents as they face the challenges of raising babies and young children.
The law that allows bipartisanship Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV) will expire in September 2022. We cannot afford to lose these federal grants to states, territories, and tribes that support evidence-based home visiting for families and children from prenatal through kindergarten.
The cost of losing this funding will be that more children will be abused and neglected, more families will lose their children and, in Texas, already overburdened child protection systemit would exacerbate the existing crisis exponentially.
Reauthorizing the MIECHV now and funding as many prevention efforts as possible in the 2023 Texas legislative session is the only way out of this crisis. We need to ensure that parents and families are supported long before intervention is needed.
In texas alone, more than 3,300 households – 61% of which are low-income – rely on home visiting programs. With the threat of losing funding, thousands of homes and the safety of children are at stake.
However, one statistic keeps me awake at night, simultaneously underscoring a sense of urgency and hope. After being flat-funded for a decade, only 5% of eligible households have access to these home visiting programs. Of this small group, the statistics are incredibly powerful and a testament to the magnitude of what increased funding and scaling up of these programs could do to transform the child welfare landscape in Texas and across the United States.
Every person reading this can be an advocate. With a click, we invite you to contact your members of Congress today. It has never been more imperative for our state and our country that Congress unite and advocate for the critical reauthorization of this bipartisan agenda for children and families.
Trudeau is the CEO of TexProtects, a non-profit, non-partisan organization focused on preventing child abuse and neglect.