Home Visiting Programs are Laying the Groundwork for More Funding in the Future
By Nisa Hussain, chair, DC Home Visiting Council
Despite a strong presence from the home visiting workforce and participants throughout the FY23 budget season and, most recently, in-person at the Wilson Building, the DC Council will not include the $369,150 increase to DC Health’s home visiting programs this year – as Under 3 DC requested. Fortunately, we did secure a $70,500 recurring enhancement to DC Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA’) home visiting programs and $150,000 of one-time funding to DC Health’s First Time Mother’s Home Visiting Program. We also secured recurring funding of $310,000 for CFSA home visiting programs that have been unsustainably funded on a one-time basis for years. While we are thrilled to see several home visiting wins, our goal remains to ensure adequate investment across all home visiting programs across agencies.
Today, the DC Council took its first vote on the upcoming fiscal year’s budget. Although there will be no additional movement on the budget, our education of and engagement with councilmembers and staff this budget season, puts us on solid footing to push again for more money in the FY24. For this year, however, we don’t expect anything to change between now and the second vote on May 24.
Like the District’s early childhood educators, the home visiting workforce has been working tirelessly to support the families hit the hardest by COVID-19 for the last two years. Home visitors have worked hard to deliver essential supplies, connect to mental health and domestic violence resources, help families navigate other District-wide health and social services, and so much more.
However, with low pay and increasing demands, the workforce faces several challenges:
- The current salaries are too low for many to live in the District. Some home visitors have second jobs or rely on family to afford to live in the community they serve.
- Lower staff retention, caused by low pay, interrupts the relationship between a home visitor and a family. Long-term, trusted relationships are a major component of quality home visiting. Without more funds to keep home visitors in their role, programs risk lower quality visits and interrupted care to families.
- Programs are short-staffed. Home visitors are also working with more families in crisis, many with intensifying needs in the pandemic. Home visitors will inevitably leave the workforce without public support and investment between the emotionally stressful situations they are supporting families with, the increased workloads, and the low pay.
Ginger, a DC home visitor shared this sentiment in her testimony this year: “ Family Support Workers support families with their goals including seeking employment that pays well to be able to support and take care of their own families….We want the same for ourselves, to be paid fairly for the impactful, life-changing work we do and a healthy work-life balance. Therefore, we are asking for a 15% increase in program funding to ensure consistent home visiting services to strengthen families and communities.”
We are incredibly proud of the home visitors, participating families, and advocates who shared their powerful stories and pushed back on policymakers during this budget season to communicate just how critical home visiting services are to the District’s communities. We are well-positioned to fight hard for the additional funding next year to ensure that home visiting programs have enough resources, the workforce is recognized and paid what they deserve, and families continue to receive the uninterrupted, quality services they need.