Representatives Tim Ryan (D-OH) and Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) Introduce Bill to Help Vulnerable Children Through Early Childhood Home Visiting Services

Jul 18, 2017 Issues: Helping Working Families

Washington, DC – Representatives Tim Ryan (D-OH-13) and Ben Ray Luján (D-NM-03) today introduced the Alleviating Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Act, which increases and streamlines funding for early childhood home visiting services. There is considerable evidence that home visiting and pediatric-based services have been extremely successful in preventing adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) such as mistreatment, neglect, or sexual abuse. Home visiting is also credited with lowering health care costs and reducing the need for social services, like food and income assistance, in addition to foster care placements.

Today, the primary program for home visiting and pediatric-based services, the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV), provides funding to all 50 states and territories, as well as numerous tribal nations. Both Ryan and Luján fully support the clean and full reauthorization of MIECHV, with incremental funding increases bringing it to $800 million a year by the end of five years. This program supplies home visiting models for at-risk families in order to improve outcomes such as greater school readiness, infant and maternal health, as well as combat child abuse and neglect. While MIECHV has proven to be effective in combating the effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) such as neglect, mistreatment, and sexual abuse, funding in recent years has proven inadequate to meet growing needs, and states often find the current funding mechanism cumbersome.

That’s why Ryan and Luján have introduced the ACEs Act, which would provide states with additional funds to supplement the MIECHV program and address current gaps in coverage.

“Congress is in a unique position to be able to help kids in need across the country. As studies show nearly 1 in 4 children experience an adverse childhood experience before they start school, our legislation would provide states with an important tool to expand home visiting programs that have proven to be so impactful,” said Congressman Ryan. “There are children across the country who need our help, and it is our job as members of Congress to provide every resource necessary to ensure that no child is forced to endure abuse or neglect.”

“I am committed to improving the lives of vulnerable children, and one way to do that is to develop new and innovative ways to expand and supplement successful programs. In order to ensure that families who most need help are not left behind, I will be supporting the full reauthorization of federal funding for the MIECHV home visitation program. Once we have secured this funding, we must pursue options that give states access to additional resources that allow them expand programs that are working.” Said Congressman Luján.

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) include emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, as well as emotional and physical neglect. They also comprise stressors such as living in a household with someone suffering from mental illness, someone who has substance abuse disorder, or someone who engages in criminal behavior. In 2011, a National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence estimated that about 58% of children and youth in the U.S. experience at least one ACE per year.  Additional studies reveal a powerful relationship between adverse childhood experiences and physical and mental health in adulthood. Research shows that home visiting programs produce a beneficial spectrum of multigenerational outcomes, particularly in diminishing the occurrence of ACEs.

Although MIECHV served 145,000 families in 2015, there are currently many more eligible families lacking support.  Passing legislation like the ACEs Act will go a long way in helping states to improve the lives of vulnerable children and families. 

States like Ohio and New Mexico are trying to provide home visiting services to more families by encouraging the use of other funding streams, such as Medicaid. However, Medicaid does not pay for the full range of services provided under MIECHV, and administrative burdens make it difficult for providers to claim reimbursement. States are forced to combine MIECHV and Medicaid funds, which leaves gaps in coverage, so that not all families have access to effective services. Streamlining access to federal support, contained in the ACEs Act would minimize these inefficiencies.

The legislation has been endorsed by numerous child- and health-based organizations including: the Nurse Family Partnership, Healthy Families America, the Center for American Progress, the Ounce of Prevention Fund, Zero to Three, the American Psychological Association, Mental Health America, and the Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs.

“Psychological research demonstrates that early adverse experiences exert lasting negative effects on child development,” said Dr. Arthur Evans, Jr., CEO of the American Psychological Association. “Our organization supports this legislation that would expand access to Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting programs, which are known to protect young children from the long-term impact of early stress. Investment in these vital early intervention programs can be expected to decrease future healthcare and social service expenditures.”

“We applaud Congressman Tim Ryan and Ben Ray Lujan for introducing the Alleviating Adverse Childhood Experiences Act. Research clearly demonstrates the effectiveness of evidence-based programs for young children and their families. It’s important to meet families where they are most comfortable. This bill will help states implement programs that support child development in homes as well as in pediatric settings. ZERO TO THREE’s HealthySteps program does just that -- providing critical services to a vulnerable population,” said Matthew E. Melmed, Executive Director, ZERO TO THREE 

“Voluntary, evidence-based home visiting programs, like Healthy Families America, strengthen American families and lead to self-sufficiency.  These proven programs result in improved mental and physical health in families, increased educational outcomes for children and better job prospects for parents,” said Dan Duffy, President and CEO of Prevent Child Abuse America. “We are grateful that Congressman Ryan and Congressman Lujan are taking proactive steps to secure funding for these critical programs.”