Washington is one of the states using money from the Affordable Care Act in creative ways to help boost the parenting skills in low-income communities by expanding home visiting programs, according to a new report by two national organizations that support the practice.
Such programs send nurses and other trained professionals to visit pregnant mothers, newborns and young children considered to be vulnerable because of social and economic conditions.
The report, from the Center for American Progress and the Center for Law and Social Policy, highlights a program in Washington State to reach tribal communities.
The tribes are leading the effort in Western Washington, with the South Puget Intertribal Planning Agency organizing home-visiting programs in six tribal communities in Kitsap, Mason, Grays Harbor, Pacific, Thurston, Lewis and Pierce Counties.
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Trained home visitors are using materials that have been adapted to be more relevant to tribal cultures and languages. For example, the national report says that the home visiting nurses, instead of using finger paint, are encouraging parents to collect and paint with local berries.
The newsweekly Education Week noted that the report is timely because funding for the federal Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting program (almost $2 billion so far) is set to expire at the end of March unless Congress renews it.
Home visits have been shown to improve children’s safety and health as well as school readiness, according to 2013 report in the journal Pediatrics.