Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Home Visits Help Kids Lead Healthy, Happy Lives

July 09, 2012

Recently I had the opportunity to hear the story of Gloria, a young woman from Washington state who had an unplanned pregnancy, little family support and modest economic circumstances. She lacked critical guidance and resources to successfully navigate her baby’s early years.  

At the age of 25, Gloria was a community health worker with an associate’s degree and a steady paycheck. She was also a committed mother once her daughter was born. However, Gloria had deep fears rooted in the abuse she suffered as a child, and it made it difficult for her to trust other adults. Because she was terrified to leave her daughter in another person’s care, it jeopardized her ability to maintain and succeed at her job.

It was the supportive guidance of a trained home visitor from Nurse-Family Partnership, a nationally recognized evidence-based home visiting model, which helped Gloria and her daughter get on a path to healthy and happy lives.

Home visiting is a voluntary service where nurses or other trained professionals meet regularly with at-risk families and offer information related to healthy children and family development – at any point from pregnancy through a child’s fifth birthday. Evidence shows that when families receive this kind of support, their children are born healthier, are less likely to suffer from abuse or neglect and are better prepared for school.

As Gloria experienced, the entire family benefits from home visiting. She learned to balance her work and home life, and has gone on to obtain leadership roles in the clinic where she works. Gloria hopes to become a lactation consultant and support other mothers in her community.

I am so proud that we have programs in Washington state that can give families like Gloria’s a better future.

While only a small number of the eligible families in our state who want home visiting can get it, the situation is improving. In 2010, the Washington State Legislature created the Home Visiting Services Account. This week, the Home Visiting Services Account will announce its fourth round of funding in 18 months — $1.4 million in new grants will support evidence-based home visiting programs statewide and 300 at-risk babies will get a chance at a great start.

By matching and leveraging public and private funds to support home visiting programs, the account has helped Washington invest 10 times more than it did in home visiting just two years ago. It is also one more reason why Washington state is seen as a national leader in early learning.

In fact, I believe so strongly in this model that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation recently made a multi-year contribution to the Home Visiting Services Account to help make sure more parents like Gloria get the early support they want and need.

The Home Visiting Services Account is administered by Thrive by Five Washington, of which I am a board member. Read Inside Thrive to keep up with Thrive’s work in home visiting and other areas of early learning.

blog comments powered by Disqus