Voluntary Home Visiting Programs Prevent Crime By Improving Child Outcomes And Well-Being

Harrisburg, Pa. (Jan. 16, 2019) – South Central PA prosecutors who are members of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids released a new report today at Tri County Community Action (TCCA) entitled, Preventing Crime Through Voluntary Home Visiting. Joined by Pennsylvania Secretary of Human Services Teresa Miller, Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children President and CEO Kari King and administrators and participants in TCCA’s Parents as Teachers home visiting program, district attorneys from Dauphin and Lebanon Counties discussed how voluntary home visiting helps reduce rates of child abuse and neglect, prevents crime, increases parental involvement and helps combat substance abuse, including opioids.

The event was conducted as part of the statewide Childhood Begins at Home campaign that promotes increased public investments in evidence-based, voluntary home visiting programs. Kari King explained, “Home visiting programs recognize that parents are children’s first teachers, but sometimes even parents need help. Trained professionals regularly visit with parents as early as pregnancy to promote positive birth outcomes and provide parent education and support, which ultimately promotes child health, learning and development, as well as family well-being and economic self-sufficiency.”

Francis Chardo, Dauphin County District Attorney commented, “My colleagues and I take a hard stand on crime to keep our communities safe. But we know that being smart on crime means investing in evidence-based programs like home visiting that address the root causes of crime including child abuse and neglect, lack of educational attainment, substance abuse and other social ills we all pay much more for later on.”

The new report prepared by the anti-crime organization Fight Crime: Invest in Kids¾explains how home visiting services can prevent child abuse and neglect, reduce future crime, and increase parental involvement, which can boost their children’s academic achievement.

District Attorney Chardo stated that while most child maltreatment victims do not become criminals, being abused or neglected increases the risk of future crime. He cited research showing that children who have experienced abuse or neglect are twice as likely to commit a crime by age 19 compared to similar children who had not been abused.

The report also documents that evidence-based home visiting programs increase parental involvement, leading to better outcomes for kids. One study, for example, found that Parents as Teachers participants read more frequently to their children and were more likely to enroll their child in preschool, leading to increased school readiness.

Lebanon County District Attorney Dave Arnold noted that home visiting programs can be a helpful tool in addressing the opioid crisis and substance abuse disorders both in the short and long term. While not a treatment program, the mentorship and connection to community resources provided by evidence-based home visiting can be a helpful tool in strengthening families that are immediately grappling with substance use disorders.

In the long term, research makes clear that early childhood adversity can lead to substance abuse later in life. One study, for instance, found that children who experienced more than four childhood traumas were three times more likely to abuse prescription pain relievers, and five times more likely to engage in injection drug use in adulthood than their counterparts who did not experience any traumas.

District Attorney Arnold said, “By not supporting at-risk families with these targeted home visiting programs, we are simply waiting for deep-rooted problems to materialize. It is hard to imagine any other investment we can make that would so substantially reduce budgetary demands on county and state governments in the years to come while protecting our communities and children.”

Participants thanked Pennsylvania Department of Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller and the Wolf Administration for making additional investments in evidence-based home visiting services a priority in the last two state budgets. With legislative support, $4.77 million was included in the 2017-2018 budget to establish a new competitive grant program for home visiting programs. In the current 2018-2019 state budget, $6.5 million in new funding was allocated for home visiting including resources to train professionals to better support families dealing with the opioid crisis.

The report notes that Pennsylvania’s home visiting programs collectively served just over 14,000 children in all 67 counties in 2017, which is only about 10 percent of the 147,509 children 0-5 years old who are living below the poverty line throughout the Commonwealth.

Six evidence-based home visiting programs operate in Pennsylvania and receive state funding: Parents as Teachers, Nurse-Family Partnership, Early Head Start, Healthy Families America, Family Check-Up and SafeCare Augmented.

Fight Crime: Invest in Kids

Fight Crime: Invest in Kids is a national anti-crime organization of police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors, attorneys general and violence survivors, with 200 members in Pennsylvania and over 5,000 members nationwide. For more information, visit www.strongnation.org/FightCrime.

Childhood Begins at Home

Childhood Begins at Home is a statewide campaign designed to help policymakers and the public understand the value of evidence-based home visiting and support public investments in the programs. Its governing body is comprised of Allegheny County Family Support, Allies for Children, Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, Maternity Care Coalition, Nurse-Family Partnership, Parents as Teachers, Pennsylvania Head Start Association, Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children and Trying Together. For more information, visit www.childhoodbeginsathome.org.

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Contact:

Bruce Clash, bclash@fightcrime.org, (717) 385-5300

Steve Doster, sdoster@fightcrime.org, (717) 343-6403

The coalition is working to build successful families in Montour and Columbia Counties,  joining leaders for an event at the Danville Childhood Development Center.

Those in attendance were: Angela Mattis, Montour County District Attorney; Ashley Mensch, director, Columbia County Family Center; Allison Shay, parent educator, Parents as Teachers; a mother benefiting from voluntary home visits and Kari King, president and CEO, Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children.

Childhood Begins at Home held an event in March to highlight the need for more evidence-based home visiting in Montgomery County.

Those who participated included:

  • Nadine Miller, deputy administrator, Resource Division, Office of Children and Youth, Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services;
  • Kevin Steele, Montgomery County District Attorney;
  • Rosemarie Halt, senior director of policy, Maternity Care Coalition;
  • A mother benefiting from voluntary home visits; and
  • Kari King, president and CEO, Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children.

Family support advocates joined together at the Kingsley Center to discuss the need for evidence-based home visiting in Allegheny County.

The event included:

  • Marc Cherna, director of the Allegheny County Department of Human Services;
  • Dr. Karen Hacker, director of the Allegheny County Health Department;
  • Cara Ciminillo, executive director of Trying Together;
  • Local families benefiting from voluntary home visits; and
  • Kari King, president and CEO of Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children.

Lycoming County First Assistant District Attorney Martin Wade, joined with the Nurse-Family Partnership and other statewide and regional partners for a press conference at UPMC Susquehanna in Williamsport, to discuss evidence-based home visiting and the Childhood Begins at Home campaign’s efforts to ensure more state funding for the programs in Lycoming County.