By Linda K. Smith, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Early Childhood Development
Growing up and starting my child care career on the Flathead and Northern Cheyenne reservations, I saw firsthand how many Native people take care of one another, checking on new moms and families with young children to make sure they have the support they need. This “it takes a village” approach is deeply rooted in many tribal communities and part of their traditional cultural practices. In many ways, this philosophy is also at the heart of home visiting programs.
Through my work I have also seen American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) communities struggle with disproportionately poor health and well-being largely as a result of generations of trauma and loss. That’s why it’s so important to fund early childhood programs that have evidence of supporting improved child and family outcomes.
Evidence-based home visiting programs are grounded in the importance of caring for families and children by “checking in” to let families know they are not alone — there are caring people within their community who are dedicated to supporting their success.
This is why I was so excited when the Federal Home Visiting Program was enacted in 2010. In the six years since, we at ACF and our partner, the Health Resources and Services Administration, have seen a tremendous growth of home visiting services in communities throughout the country. With $68.3 million awarded to date, the Tribal Home Visiting Program has been an unprecedented expansion of high-quality, culturally-relevant, evidence-based home visiting services for vulnerable AIAN families and children. In FY 2015, grantees provided nearly 18,000 home visits to 1,800 adult enrollees and over 1,700 children.
The program was reauthorized in 2015, and now we are pleased to announce awards in 2016 totaling $13 million in grants that will continue to build on the success of the program. Two new awards totaling $600,000 were awarded for Tribal Home Visiting Development and Implementation grants to start new home visiting programs, and 17 new awards totaling $8.8 million were awarded for Tribal Home Visiting Implementation and Expansion grants to build on established home visiting infrastructure. ACF also awarded $3.6 million in continuation awards to six existing Tribal Home Visiting grantees.
We are proud and honored at ACF to partner with tribal communities to create opportunities with research, evaluation, and evidence-based practices and build on their own cultural and community assets. Programs like Tribal Home Visiting teach us that if we work together and respect each other’s strengths we can make a profound impact in the communities we serve.