The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced today that Florida was awarded $4.9 million in its latest round of Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting grant money.

The federal health agency announced that it was dispersing “$224 million to help at-risk families voluntarily receive home visits from nurses and social workers to improve maternal and child health, child development, school readiness, economic self-sufficiency, and child abuse prevention.” The funds for the program are allocated through the Affordable Care Act. Florida was awarded $4,964,887.

The last round of home visiting funds awarded to Florida were initially turned down by the state Legislature. However, because participation in the home visiting program is a requirement for eligibility for the state to receive up to $100 million for federal early education dollars, legislators eventually accepted the funds.

The Race to the Top early learning program eligibility requires that states “continue to participate” in the home visiting program.

According to Health and Human Services’ current press release:

Research has shown that home visiting programs can improve outcomes for children and families, including improving maternal and child health, reducing child maltreatment, increasing parental employment, and improving the rate at which children reach developmental milestones. HHS undertook an exhaustive review of the research evidence on different home visiting programs to identify the models that have been shown to work.

“These investments will go a long way toward keeping our kids healthy and building robust early childhood systems across the country,” said Mary Wakefield, Ph.D., R.N., administrator, Health Resources and Services Administration.

Under the MIECHV program, states must use at least three-quarters of the funding provided to implement one or more of these evidence-based programs.  The program also supports continued innovation by allowing up to 25 percent of funding to carry out and evaluate promising new approaches.  Formula grant awards totaling $124 million were awarded to 55 eligible agencies including 49 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, and America Samoa.

Healthy Families Florida and Healthy Start coalitions both currently run home-visiting programs that help at-risk families in the state of Florida.

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