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Big payoff for home visiting

We all want babies born in New Mexico to thrive. For our children to have a bright future they need to be healthy. Early childhood development should be a top priority in New Mexico.

But without experience, it can be hard for parents to make sure their children are developing in healthy ways.

Children deserve to be raised right and parents deserve to have help. Home visiting can give parents the support they need to be the best parents they can, no matter their circumstances.

Home visiting programs send trained experts to the homes of new or planning parents to provide support and guidance on how to stay healthy during pregnancy and on how to take care of children.

Home visitors help schedule regular doctor visits, assist in planning a healthy diet for parents and babies, and provide expertise that reduces the stress of parents.

Kids are like sponges. Home visiting programs are proven to reduce a baby’s risk for health and developmental problems.

One study showed that mothers who participated in home visits have children that are half as likely to be born with low birth weight.

Research has also demonstrated that by the time children are 5 years old, they have developed 90 percent of their brain size. Home visiting ensures that parents are engaging in the necessary talking, reading and singing that children require in their early years in order for their brain synapses to develop properly.

Loving environments allow children to make connections, grow and learn.

Home visiting also helps parents prepare their children for school. Home visiting programs have demonstrated long-term positive impacts on children’s academic achievements.

Being in a safe environment allows a child to create strong connections to parents. As a result, children will also be safer.

Children whose families participated in home visiting programs have had 40 percent fewer injuries between the ages of two and four, and they were 35 percent less likely to visit the emergency room compared to children who were not enrolled.

The New Mexico First Born Program is a great local example.

For nearly 20 years, the program has ensured that its enrolled families have the ability to raise their children confidently. New Mexico First Born recognizes that “the most effective and efficient unit for building a competent society is a bonded, resilient and competent family.”

Every parent, regardless of income, should have the opportunity to use these amazing programs. We need to invest in creating robust home visiting programs and ensuring families know these programs are available.

We should fund home visiting programs because we can all benefit from them, whether or not we are parents.

A single child exposed to drugs at an early age or born addicted to drugs can cost the state up to $1.4 million.

The lifetime cost of one victim of child abuse and neglect is over $200,000.

Among participants in the First Born program, 98 percent of families had no substantiated reports of child abuse or neglect.

Because we live in a state that is struggling to save money, investing upstream in preventive services makes much more financial sense than paying for costly services later.

This issue should garner bipartisan support. An investment in health at a young age is a lifelong investment.

Also signed by Sam Lechuga and Edwin Rivera.