Among other good news for children in the healthcare reform bill passed by Congress on March 23 is a commitment to reduce child abuse and neglect through home visitation programs.  The bill authorizes $1.5 billion over five years to be awarded as grants to states for services to families with infants and young children.  

Here’s the challenge for Georgia:  In order to receive funds the state must conduct assessments of factors indicating need for services and existing home visiting programs to ensure better targeting and coordination.   The assessments must be done within six months, and the clock started ticking on March 23. 

Which of our state agencies will step forward to lead this effort?  DFCS which has about $900,000 in one model of home visitation?  Public Health which is newly re-organizing with a strong interest but no designated funding?  The Governor’s Office for Children and Families which absorbed the Children’s Trust Fund , once but no longer a major source of home visiting funding?  The Department of Early Care and Learning which has an inherent interest in the age group but no history or funding for early intervention programs?

Georgia’s children desperately need these programs.  Child abuse is greatest among very young children.  Home visitation programs have proven to reduce child abuse and neglect and have promise of improving child development for later learning.  Advocates need to step up and encourage state agency leadership and collaboration to get these assessments done now.  The clock is ticking.

Pat Willis, Executive Director

Voices for Georgia’s Children, www.georgiavoices.org

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