Public programs often set ambitious goals, and sometimes fall short. But Washington state’s home visiting program not only exceeded a goal set by Results Washington to serve more families, it also did it a year early.
In one year, the number of parents and families with access to voluntary home visiting – which supports maternal and child health, parenting, child development, and economic self-sufficiency in new families – rose 11 percent, from 1,761 to 1,956 families. This easily exceeded Results Washington’s challenge of increasing the number of parents and families with access 10 percent by June 2015.
The program beat expectations, in part, because policymakers have woven together a deep stream of federal, state and local funds, in the process creating a network that today is a central part of Washington’s early learning system. Washington’s Home Visiting Services Account helps some of the state’s most at-risk families, prioritizing services for families with children age three or younger. This focus is critical because research tells us that brain development in the first nine months of life lays groundwork for social-emotional development, problem-solving and literacy.
“The supports provided improve maternal and child health, parenting and child development, economic self-sufficiency, and reduce child abuse, neglect and domestic violence. The result includes children that are better prepared to succeed in school and life,” the Department of Early Learning said in an explanation of the program’s success.
Since home visiting relies on a big chunk of federal funds that are slated to run out in 2016, leaders of the program, run by Thrive by Five Washington and the Department of Early Learning, are already working on securing new and long-term funding. Two years ago, the state gave the program a boost by increasing its investment by $500,000 a year, creating approximately 60 slots.
Home visiting’s success was featured at the monthly Results Review meeting of Gov. Jay Inslee’s Results Washington initiative, which is working to improve the efficiency and performance of government programs.