Home Visiting Programs in Texas: Working Toward Being a Better State for Children

Between 2000 and 2010, Texas experienced one of the largest proportional gains in child population in the country and yet, Texas is getting far too comfortable with its ranking in the bottom 10 states for overall child well-being. According to the national KIDS COUNT Data Book, released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Texas ranks 43rd in overall child well-being. In 2012, Texas ranked 44th and in 2013, Texas ranked 42nd.

The good news is that Texas is working toward being a better state for kids. Home visiting programs, which have garnered the attention of policy-makers at both the state and federal levels as a promising evidence-based policy to support at-risk families with young children, are currently being widely implemented across the state as a part of the Texas Home Visiting (THV) program, funded by the federal Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV). Decades of research show that supporting children’s early health and development has important long-term consequences for later well-being and success and home visiting programs have the potential to move the mark on the overall well-being of our smallest Texans. As noted in the 2014 KIDS COUNT Data Book,

“Given that in-school factors account for only a third or less of the variation in test scores, we must face the fact that our high child poverty rate constrains our nation’s academic achievement. Schools can make a difference at the margins, but they cannot overcome the vast cognitive and social-emotional development differences between high- and low-income children that are already entrenched by the time kids enter kindergarten (p. 12).”

THV serves families with children from pregnancy through age five and thus has the opportunity to reduce the cognitive and social-emotional differences between high- and low-income children that emerge well before children enter kindergarten. One of the three evaluations CFRP is conducting of THV is focused on the implementation of these programs across the state and the outcomes with which they are associated for children and families. Outcomes that may help Texas move out of the bottom 10 states for overall child well-being and ultimately be a better place to be a kid.

Kaeley Bobbitt, Ph.D., Post-Doctoral Fellow