During my career in law enforcement, I have seen too often the dire consequences of child abuse, neglect and substance use.
These issues often begin early in life and have a lasting impact on a person’s future. That’s why I believe that early intervention is key to solving a lot of long-term public safety concerns.
One way to mitigate these problems is through voluntary home visiting programs. Voluntary home visits include individual, consistent engagement from trained professionals like nurses, social workers or parent coaches to ensure families from vulnerable populations can thrive. There are a variety of home visiting programs, many of which are supported through the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) federal funding stream.
These evidence-based programs are shown to prevent child maltreatment and create a solid foundational environment for early development by giving new parents access to tools for healthy parenting and financial independence. An upcoming report from Council for a Strong America — a bipartisan nonprofit consisting of law enforcement, military and business leaders — explains that the guidance provided by home visiting helps promote school readiness for children, preparing them for future success and helping to prevent future involvement in the criminal justice system.
Congress established MIECHV in 2010 to help families in need, but it has not seen a funding increase since 2015. We’re missing crucial segments of our population when we fail to prioritize these programs. In Massachusetts alone, more than 50,000 high-priority families could benefit from home visiting services and less than four percent are able to be reached.
Right now, the funding stream will expire Sept. 30 without legislative action. We cannot allow this to happen. We need renew MIECHV funding and expand it. With more financial support, MIECHV-funded programs could adequately compensate their professionals and increase flexibility of visits with virtual options for people in more remote areas.
If we want to see long-term crime reduction in our state and country, we must invest in the earliest stages of a child’s life. Resources for new parents give Massachusetts kids the best opportunity to be successful in school and in life. If we fail to prioritize MIECHV before the September deadline, we are at risk of reversing the positive outcomes we’ve seen in our continued public safety.
I strongly urge lawmakers to remember the longstanding benefits of home visiting when considering this crucial renewal. Our parents, children and communities are depending on it.
Michael Wynn, Pittsfield
The writer is chief of the Pittsfield Police Department and a member of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids.