Telling the Story of Home Visiting in the Washington State Legislature

I am a mother of two, and though my husband and I benefit greatly from working together to raise our daughters, we have had our moments. We needed support from friends, relatives, professionals. In this way, Mike and I are no different than the families who receive home visiting services. All families need supports to be successful, though they can differ greatly in their requirements and circumstances.
I was able to talk about this earlier this month at a legislative briefing in Olympia with an audience of lawmakers, legislative staff and representatives from government agencies, early learning advocates and partner organizations. Our goal was to share information about what home visiting is, how it works in Washington state, why it’s one of the best investments we can make in young children and their families – and what’s ahead for 2015.
My counterpart at the Department of Early Learning, home visiting project manager Laura Alfani, shared the stage with me as we reviewed the role of home visiting in our state’s Early Learning Plan and Birth to Three Plan. In 2010, the state Home Visiting Services Account was established by the Legislature, and it’s managed by the Department of Early Learning and Thrive by Five Washington. DEL oversees the account and Thrive administers it.

What’s so innovative and exciting about Washington’s system is that we’re building on a foundation of what has worked for families in different communities while bringing in the best practices in evidence-based approaches and effective implementation. The Home Visiting Services Account funds programs throughout Washington state while providing support to those programs to ensure that they are providing the highest quality services for families.
That is really important: high-quality early learning such as home visiting is critical to giving children a great start in school and in life. Research has proven that the brain development that happens in a child’s first nine months of life helps lay the groundwork for their social-emotional development, problem-solving and literacy. When those early learning opportunities are of high quality, we can ensure that children will see lasting benefits.
So who are the families served by the programs of the Home Visiting Services Account? We focus our funding on some of the most at-risk families, according to state data and demonstrated community need. We know that the first three years are the most critical for children’s development, so we prioritize our services for families with children age 3 or younger. In fact, about half of children served by HVSA-funded services are under the age of 1.

One exciting development in 2015 has to do with supporting the families who are furthest from opportunity or most in need. In partnership with TANF, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, we will be distributing funds for home visiting services early next year through a competitive bid process. This partnership helps us effectively partner with the Department of Social and Health Services while reaching more families in communities across the state.
Home visiting is a service that we know makes a difference for families, and helps children come to school ready to be successful.

Check out home visiting in action:

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