Three Oregon law enforcement leaders — Redmond Police Chief Dave Tarbet, Crook County District Attorney Daina Vitolins and Baker County District Attorney Matt Shirtcliff — promoted the benefits Monday of federally supported home visiting programs in preventing crime, lobbying for its continued funding.
The three are members of the law enforcement organization Fight Crime: Invest in Kids that aims to protect public safety by promoting solutions that steer kids away from crime.
Each year, over 10,400 children in Oregon experience abuse or neglect. Research shows that children who experience abuse or neglect are twice as likely to commit a crime by age 19, compared to similar children who have not been abused or neglected. In Oregon, that equates to roughly 290 children a year who grow up to commit a crime following a childhood involving abuse or neglect.
“Some of the hardest situations police officers walk into are the ones that involve abused or neglected children,” Tarbet said. “Any time that we can prevent abuse up-front and save children from future consequences like victimization and criminal activity, everyone wins.”
Many abuse and neglect cases are preventable, the officials said. Voluntary home visiting provides coaching for key skills to new parents by a trained professional from birth through the early years of the child’s life.
The guidance and counseling includes topics ranging from infant health and safety to education and employment goal-setting.
The state’s largest home visiting program, Healthy Families Oregon, serves more than 2,500 families and enjoys critical support from Congressman Greg Walden of the Second Congressional District.
“If there is an opportunity to prevent a child from ever ending up in my courtroom, I most certainly want to utilize that option,” Vitolins said. “Home visiting gives parents needed skills to put their child on a path to success.”
Home visiting benefits not only individual families, but also communities, the officials said.
A study of the Early Head Start program found that mothers who received home visits increased their earnings by $3,600 a year, likely because the program provided education and job guidance.
A cost-benefit analysis found that high-quality home visiting saves up to $6,000 over the lifetime of each child. The impact of fostering self-sustainability among families is reflected in welfare savings of $14,500 per family over a decade.
In addition, 85 percent of federally supported home visiting programs demonstrated improvements in family self-sufficiency last year.
For nearly 25 years, officials said, Oregon families have appreciated the stability home visiting brings to their lives. This fall, the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV) comes up for reauthorization before Congress.
The law enforcement leaders said it is critical that evidence-based home visiting receives the necessary funding to maintain and expand programs and enhance families’ independence and self-sufficiency. They urged Congress to vote to reauthorize MIECHV.
“This is ultimately about our community. When home visiting is supported by Congressman Walden and other members of Congress, families learn critical skills that help them stabilize,” said Baker County District Attorney Matt Shirtcliff. “That leads to community and economic benefits. Voluntary home visiting just makes sense on so many different levels.”