Dart, McMahon call for continued support of home visit programs to curb child abuse

A report released Tuesday by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids concluded home-visit programs have led to a decrease in childhood neglect and abuse.

SHARE Dart, McMahon call for continued support of home visit programs to curb child abuse
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart joined Illinois law enforcement officials Tuesday to call on the state and federal government to continue support of home visit programs.

Sun-Times file

A group of Illinois law enforcement officials called on the state and federal governments to continue providing support for programs that send social workers, nurses and other trained professionals to visit families in their homes.

Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon said the criminal justice system needs to treat “the root causes of violence,” one of which being child abuse and neglect. Home visit programs are one way to curb that problem, he said.

“If we’re serious about ending the violence that plagues far too many communities across our state, we have to take the long view,” McMahon said.

A report released Tuesday by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids — a group of law enforcement officials around the country that research solutions to reduce crime among kids — concluded programs such as Nurse-Family Partnership, Healthy Families America have led to a decrease in childhood neglect and abuse. Other prominent programs in Illinois included Parents as Teachers and Early Head Start, the report stated.

The report said a study of a NFP program in Elmira, New York, found that by age 15, there were half as many verified incidents of child neglect and abuse for those who participated in the program. Another study of a HFA program showed a 36% decrease in child welfare referrals among mothers with a history of abuse and neglect.

Tim Carpenter, the Illinois director of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, said funding for home visits comes from agencies such as the Illinois Department of Human Services and the Illinois State Board of Education.

However, state funding has been stagnant in the past few years, he said.

He said there are two initiatives in the state that could help: the Illinois Prenatal to Three Initiative and the Early Childhood Funding Commission launched by Gov. J.B. Pritkzer last December.

The Illinois Prenatal to Three Initiative would expand the number of home visits, Carpenter said, while the Early Childhood Funding Commission would make recommendations for the state to invest in home visiting and other early childhood programs.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said funding for programs like home visits can’t be put on the back-burner by the state and the federal government even as the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the economy as a whole.

“Yes, the report’s out, the evidence is as strong as ever,” Dart said. “This can’t get lost in the shuffle.”

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