Testimony of Ruqiyyah Abu-Anbar, DC Council Committees on Human Services & Education Public Oversight Roundtable on the Status of Home Visiting Services in the District

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Testimony of Ruqiyyah Abu-Anbar, Director of Early Childhood Policy and Programs

DC Action for Children

 

Public Roundtable

The Status of Home Visiting Services in the District

 

Before the Committees on Human Services and Education

Council of the District of Columbia

 

November 28, 2018

 

Good morning Chairperson Nadeau, Chairperson Grosso, and members of the Committees on Human Services and Education. My name is Ruqiyyah Abu-Anbar and I am the Director of Early Childhood Policy and Programs at DC Action for Children. Thank you for bringing us together today to discuss the status of home visiting services in the District and for prioritizing mothers at this hearing. I’d also like to thank the panel of mothers that preceded me for sharing their stories. With the passage of B-3 for All DC earlier this year and ongoing changes to federal funding for home visiting, this is a critical moment for this conversation.

DC Action provides data analysis and policy leadership on issues facing DC children and youth. We envision a District of Columbia where all children, regardless of their race/ethnicity, family’s income or zip code, have the opportunity to reach their full potential. We are the home of DC KIDS COUNT, an online resource that tracks key indicators of child well-being in the District. DC Action conducted the 2017 Status Report on Home Visiting for the Office of the DC Auditor, and also chairs the District of Columbia Home Visiting Council, which I manage.

Home visiting: what it is and why DC families need it

Home visiting is a strategy for providing support to expecting parents and the families of young children primarily through regular visits to the home or a location of participants’ choosing. In these programs, a family support worker meets with families to complete a curriculum meant to help them achieve target outcomes. Home visits provide families with caring relationships, support, parenting education, and linkages to other services that can smooth critical periods of transition and help families succeed. Participants in home visiting can experience improvement in the following areas: perinatal health, maternal depression, school readiness in young children, parenting practices, parent-child relationships, and child abuse and neglect.[1]

In a city where many families still experience structural barriers that predispose them to poor outcomes, home visiting programs are an unparalleled opportunity. These programs give parents trusted support and the knowledge, skills, and resources they need to navigate parenthood in the face of these barriers. Home visiting delivers important curriculum to expectant parents and the families of young children, and supports families as they identify and access critical services and resources that they need to thrive. Programs support improved outcomes in a wide range of child and family outcomes and thoughtful implementation of this strategy as part of the early childhood system is an opportunity to connect the health, early education, and child welfare systems that play an important role in the lives of the District’s young children and their families.

Brief Landscape of Home Visiting in DC

In DC in FY 2018, 12 organizations implemented 15 home visiting programs. In total, these programs had the capacity to serve about 900 children and families. Ten of these programs were publicly funded, including four programs receiving direct federal funding – these were Early Head Start Home-Based programs – and six receiving local or locally-administered funding. Of the latter group of programs, about 2/3 of slots were DC Health funded or administered and the remaining 1/3 were CFSA funded or administered. We invite you to read more about these programs in the HV Council’s forthcoming annual report, to be released in December.

The Home Visiting Council

The Home Visiting Council convenes home visiting providers, local government agencies, advocates, managed care organizations, and other partners who work to strengthen the understanding, implementation, and sustainability of home visiting as a strategy to support positive child and family outcomes in the District. Nearly all DC home visiting providers are members of the HV Council, cumulatively bringing to the table a diversity of funding types and amounts, program sizes, models, structures, and experience, as well as deep knowledge of the communities they serve. Some of these providers will share those experiences today.

The Home Visiting Council is concluding the first year of its three-year strategic plan spanning 2018 through 2020. Under this plan, in 2018, the HV Council began work on several important initiatives to strengthen home visiting in the District. They are:

  • C-intake: In collaboration with the DC Department of Health, the Council is working to develop a long-awaited coordinated intake system for home visiting that will help match families with home visiting programs through the Help Me Grow system. This project is slated to be completed by the end of FY 2019.
  • Data Collection: For the first time in DC history, the HV Council began collecting regular high-level data on the District’s home visiting publicly and privately funded programs. The Council will use this data to better understand changes to the home visiting landscape and to identify patterns and trends in home visiting District-wide.
  • Home Visitor Survey: the HV Council designed and administered a survey of home visitors to better understand the needs and experiences of home visitors. More than 40 home visitors completed this survey. The results of this survey and accompanying focus groups will be used to guide the HV Council’s strategy for better supporting these critical early childhood providers.
  • Advocacy: Members of the advocacy subcommittee have testified at key DC agency budget and oversight hearings to promote sound policies and sustainable funding for home visiting, have invited families to share their experiences with home visiting, and work with partners across the early childhood system to coordinate a vision for the role of home visiting within the system. We appreciate your work on this issue to date and
  • hope to continue to work with your offices to make DC a better place for all children who live here.
  • Annual Report: The HV Council will release its first Annual Report on Home Visiting next month. This report will provide yearly updates on the status of home visiting in DC, alongside recommendations by the HV Council for strengthening these programs District-wide. We look forward to sharing this report with you and hope that it will serve as a valuable resource.

 

In 2019, the HV Council looks forward to continuing and growing these initiatives, and we welcome feedback and participation as we do so. Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. We hope that the conversation today will serve as a launching point for coordination and collaboration across the home visiting system to best meet the needs of DC’s expectant parents and families of young children. The Home Visiting Council exists to support efforts such as this and we encourage District leaders to use this body as a resource along the way.

 

[1] DC Action for Children. Literature Review of the Status Report on Home Visiting (2016). Retrieved from: https://www.dcactionforchildren.org/sites/default/files/HVSR_lit_review_FINAL_web.pdf

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