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Rep. Pascrell Offers Amendment to Home Visiting Bill

Today, U.S. Representative Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-09), a member of the House Committee on Ways and Means, offered an amendment to H.R. 2824, the Increasing Opportunity and Success for Children and Parents through Evidence-Based Home Visiting Act, which re-authorizes the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program. This amendment would strike the provision in bill that would add “increasing employment and earnings” to the program’s measured outcomes. The amendment failed, 191-231.

MIECHV provides pregnant women, new mothers, and families with young children with regular, planned visits from trained professionals who help them improve their healthy living and parenting skills, promote child development, and access needed resources and services in their communities.

Below are Rep. Pascrell's prepared remarks regarding the amendment.

Mr. Speaker, I have an amendment at the desk.

My amendment would strike the provision in the bill that would add “increasing employment and earnings” to the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program, or MIECHV, program’s measured outcomes.

I obviously share the goal of increasing employment and earnings across the country. However, home visiting is not an employment program.

It is a program to strengthen families to make kids healthier, safer, and more ready to learn when they start school. Those are the outcomes home visiting models strive for, and those are the outcomes they achieve.

In my district, I know the good that these programs do. In Passaic County, our home visiting program worked with a pregnant mom expecting a child with a heart defect. The baby required open heart surgery shortly after he was born last July. After the surgery the newborn continued to have health complications and at times his mom felt depressed and hopeless and feared that her child was not going to survive.

The home visiting program’s Family Support Worker was able to assist the mom by connecting her to services, providing her with emotional support, and acting as a liaison with the hospital.

We know the negative impact that post-partum depression can have on new moms and their babies, and the home visiting program was able to connect this mom to supportive resources and alleviate her depression so that she could be a healthy and present mother. I’m happy to report that after nearly three months in the hospital, this little boy was finally able to go home and his mom continues to work with the home visiting program in northern New Jersey.

Now, I don’t think anyone can hear that story and not see value in the services that were provided.  This home visiting program helped a mom navigate her newborn son’s health care crisis and manage the mental health issues associated with it.

But under the provision that my amendment is seeking to strike from the bill, this outcome would not be measured as a success. There’s something wrong with that.

Most home visiting models focus on families with newborns or very small children, and focus on building a parent-child bond. Many home visiting programs focus on teen parents and young mothers, and the priority is to keep them in school and make sure they continue their education.

There are currently 18 evidence-based home visiting models. None of them provide employment services, none of them measure employment and earnings.

Home visitors have raised concerns that having to ask families about employment and earnings would be intrusive, and would undermine the relationship they are trying to build with families. Even if the data is collected without specifically asking the families for it, knowing their performance is being measured based on their clients’ labor force participation will likely make home visitors feel that they have to press their clients to work – even if, like the case of the mom in Passaic County, that shouldn’t be the main objective.

Additionally, this bill provides no new funding, so any resources devoted to supporting work would have to be diverted from MIECHV’s core purposes.

I urge my colleagues to support this amendment, which will make sure children and families served by this program get the supports and services that they truly need.

Thank you.

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