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Home visits reduce abuse, boost health

Recently the editorial board of the Albuquerque Journal criticized the efforts and program of CHI St. Joseph’s Children. Home visiting is not an “ill-thought-out program” as claimed by the editorial board; at least the Legislative Finance Committee thinks otherwise.

The 2016 LFC Report on early childhood stated that “home visiting is an intensive parent education program shown to effectively reduce child abuse and improve health.” The very qualities that the editorial board calls for from parents are taught and modeled through home visiting. This is where the change in parenting skills takes place for the life of the child.

The babies in early childhood programs, in a short 20-plus years, will themselves be the parents who have graduated from high school and will be a prepared workforce that will attract companies with good paying jobs. This effectively breaks the cycle of poverty, creating systemic change in our society.

Our home visiting program is a hybrid model that has been studied by the University of New Mexico Institute for Social Research. The UNM study reveals that “the CHI St. Joseph’s Children home visiting program sets the bar… This program could be a model for other states in providing high quality service to children.”

The state’s Pull Together campaign states “home visiting program standards are linked to five long-term benefits: 1) Babies are born healthy; 2) Children are nurtured by their parents and caregivers; 3) Children are physically and mentally healthy and ready for school; 4) Children and families are safe; and 5) Families are connected to formal and informal supports in their community.”

All these benefits help children take advantage of the big investment in K-12: if they arrive ahead they stay ahead.

These are the very outcomes the editorial board claims to be looking for. These benefits are logical outcomes from logical programs.

Even more logical is the math. It is very hard to get away with incorrect math without an experienced Sister of Charity, with years of teaching under her habit, catching it.

The editorial board claims that a 1 percent use of the Land Grant Permanent Fund would deplete the fund. This is not true. As reported by the New Mexico State Investment Council’s Annual Audit, the fund grew, after distribution, by 21.2 percent in fiscal year 2011, 27 percent in FY 2012, 13 percent in FY 2013, 17.6 percent in FY 2014, 3.7 percent in FY 2015, and -1.98 percent in FY 2016, which has a six-year rolling average of growth, after distribution, of 8.965 percent.

One percent will not dissipate the fund. Given the state budget deficit, the Land Grant Permanent Fund is the only option to serve the great need our children have. The fund is dedicated for education.

The Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati came to New Mexico in 1865. During that time many ministries of health and education were begun by the sisters. The servant of God, Sister Blandina Segale, started the first public school in Albuquerque and built St. Joseph Hospital. That ministry continues today as CHI St. Joseph’s Children under Catholic Health Initiatives.

We are so happy that we can continue to serve the children of New Mexico by operating one of the largest home visiting programs in the nation. These services are free to client families and this charitable work is privately funded. The editorial board continues to ignore this and deliberately edited that fact out of previous letters. We do not accept federal or state government funding.

So next time that the editorial board wants to form an argument against a charity serving children through private funds they should be advised to send their editorial to be edited.

We have weathered over 100 years of obstacles and challenges and each time the ministry emerges stronger. Criticism must always be weighed on the scale of truth and justice.

We continue to pray for our children of New Mexico, those subject to poverty and hunger, and especially those exposed to abuse. We continue to pray a litany of children who have died rather than a litany of dollars. Let’s put the children first.

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