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Opening Statement of Councilmember Grosso

Chairperson, Committee on Education
Committee on Human Services and Committee on Education Joint Public Oversight
Roundtable on The Status of Home Visiting Services in the District
November 28, 2018

I am pleased to Co-Chair this joint public oversight roundtable on “The Status of
Home Visiting Services in the District.”

The importance of home visiting services cannot be overstated. Home visiting is
a proven service delivery strategy that connects high-risk parents who are
pregnant or have young children with trained professionals and
paraprofessionals.

Many of these programs support families by providing prenatal, newborn, and
infant care education; connections with preventative health and prenatal
services; early intervention; support for child development; child abuse
prevention; and parenting education.

As a result, children are more likely to be physically, socially, and emotionally
healthy and ready to learn in school.

The District of Columbia utilizes both federal and local funds to provide home
visiting services to D.C. residents. The D.C. Department of Health (“DOH”) funds
home visiting programs as part of its strategy to ensure children and families
have access to a continuum of comprehensive, high-quality early childhood
programs prenatally through the child’s third year of life.

Alternatively, the Child and Family Services Agency (“CFSA”) funds home visiting
programs as a strategy to prevent child abuse and neglect, promote positive
healthy outcomes, and empower families to support their children’s growth and
development. Both agencies have targeted services in wards 5, 7, and 8 which
have been determined to be areas with the highest concentration of poverty and
fewest resources.

Additionally, there are local organizations that provide home visiting services in
the District of Columbia.

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As Chairperson of the Education Committee, and a member of the Committee on
Human Services and Committee on Health, I have been a proud supporter of
home visiting services in the District of Columbia. I believe home visiting services
place our at-risk students in the best position to succeed in school.

I supported the Birth to Three for All DC Act of 2018, which requires DOH to
conduct a comprehensive needs assessment of home visiting, establishes a
Home Visiting program within DOH, and provides a home visiting grant for
immigrant families.

I included language in the law to require the Office of the State Superintendent
of Education to provide a grant or contract to a nonprofit organization to provide
Early Head Start home visiting services to homeless families with infants or
toddlers residing in the new DC General Family Shelter Replacement units.

While there is a lot of positive momentum in this area, we have a long way to go
to ensure our home visiting programs work optimally. According to a 2017 report
prepared by the DC Action for Children on behalf of the Office of the District of
Columbia Auditor, an estimated 6,300 D.C. households with children five years
and under are eligible to receive home visiting services but are not currently
being served. This gap in service is problematic for a number of reasons, but one
glaring injustice is the large disparity in the infant mortality rate and other
maternal and child health challenges in Wards 7 and 8.

Further, it is difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of home visiting programs
because of our diversity in home visiting models, sources of funding, program
goals and success measures, and agency oversight.

Today, I look forward to learning from our public and government witnesses
about what we are doing to address these many complex issues.

Thank you, Chairperson Nadeau, for your compassion and leadership on this
particular topic, and thank you to all the public and government witnesses who
are here to testify.

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