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CYFD slow to start home visiting program, evaluation finds

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Two years after New Mexico won a $2.65 million federal grant, the state had set up home visiting services for children at only two of the four communities planned as pilot sites, a program evaluation found.

Home visiting can include a wide variety of services offered in the homes of families with young children.

A state Children, Youth and Families official responded last week that the state today has active home visiting programs at all four sites, but in some cases grant money was used to expand existing programs rather than start new ones.

CYFD received the two-year grant in September 2011 to set up pilot programs at sites in Luna, Quay and McKinley counties and Albuquerque’s South Valley.

The state’s original plan called for home visiting programs to be in operation at all four sites by September 2012, the report said.

“The evaluation we conducted shows that, after two years, a small amount of progress has been made” toward the project’s objectives, according to the evaluation by RAND Corp., a nonprofit think tank based in Arlington, Va.

The state paid RAND about $300,000 to evaluate the grant program from September 2011 to November 2013, CYFD estimated. The report was published online in July.

“McKinley County and South Valley did not begin home visiting services as part of this project during the evaluation time frame,” the report said. Only Luna and Quay counties had started home visiting programs, it said.

The evaluation cited “contracting and administrative delays” for the slow progress.

A CYFD official said this week that the agency used the federal grant and state money to develop new programs and expand existing programs in both McKinley County and the South Valley.

Dan Haggard, CYFD’s deputy director for programs in the early childhood services division, said the plan to start all four programs in a year “was really impossible” because state procurement laws caused delays in selecting contractors.

In McKinley County, CYFD used grant money to expand a home visiting program started by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation, Haggard said. Grant money also expanded a second program operated by McKinley County Public Schools, he said.

In the South Valley, federal grant funds were used to expand a home visiting program called a nurse-family partnership, in which nurses provide prenatal and well-child services in the home.

Also in the South Valley, CYFD created a new home visiting program called Parents as Teachers, which teach parenting, nutrition and other skills to help children succeed in school, Haggard said.

CYFD contracts with the University of New Mexico’s Center for Development and Disability to operate both South Valley programs, he said.

State and federal officials have made home visiting a centerpiece of childhood services in recent years.

In New Mexico, state and federal funding totals $8.5 million for home visiting this year, up from about $5.9 million last year, CYFD said in an annual report. The agency operates home visiting programs in 22 of the state’s 33 counties and served more than 1,000 families in 2013.

The RAND report found merit in portions of the program put in place.

“Luna and Quay counties began implementing the (Parents as Teachers) program, which was perceived positively by the community,” it said.

Luna County was the first to begin offering services in March 2013 and had 81 families enrolled in November. Five staff members had performed 1,934 home visits.

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