Maryland Adopts Data-Driven Policies for Home Visiting

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In April, Maryland lawmakers unanimously approved legislation that creates one of the best systems in the nation for investing home visiting dollars effectively.

The new law strengthens the state's ability to get the full, cost-saving benefits of home visiting, such as fewer low-birthweight babies, lower rates of child abuse and neglect, improved school achievement and more self-sufficient families. Through these reforms, Maryland's home visiting investment should deliver results for participating families and solid returns for taxpayers.

The Home Visiting Accountability Act requires that at least 75 percent of funds go to programs with a record of achieving one or more meaningful family outcomes laid out in the Act. The remainder of the state's investment may support programs that show promise but are still undergoing evaluation. Since no single home visiting model has been proven effective with all at-risk families and across all outcomes, encouraging innovation through promising programs is vital.

The Act also improves the state's oversight by requiring that all programs report on the state funds spent, the number and characteristics of families served and child and parent outcomes produced. These data allow the state to track the performance of home visiting programs and refine its funding strategy from year to year.

In addition, these policy changes will help align Maryland's investment criteria with requirements for the federal Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program, which makes an unprecedented $1.5 billion available to support states' home visiting systems.

Maryland's reforms are based on a policy framework developed by the Pew Home Visiting Campaign. Pew's nationwide survey of states' home visiting programs found that most lacked policies that link funding to program effectiveness and that few adequately monitored family outcomes.

The Act is supported by a broad coalition including policy makers, state agency staff, advocates, home visiting providers, and leaders in the health care and business communities. Crucial legislative leadership came from Senator Nancy King and Delegate Sheila Hixson, the bill's primary sponsors, and from Gov. Martin O'Malley and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown. The governor also restored $2.24 million in home visiting funds that had been part of cuts proposed earlier in the 2012 session.

Read Maryland's Home Visiting Accountability Act here.