Last week, Jaime Russell, Program Manager of Children’s Home + Aid’s Family Support Services in the Central Region, testified at a Senate Appropriations I Committee hearing. Jaime spoke in support of funding the Healthy Families Illinois and Parents Too Soon home visiting programs in the Illinois Department of Human Services’ budget at the $16.9 million level proposed by Governor Rauner.

Healthy Families Illinois provides home visits to pregnant or first-time parents under the age of 22, who have infants less than two weeks old. All of the families in the program are identified as being at an increased risk for child abuse or neglect or other poor outcomes. The purpose of the Healthy Families program is to prevent child abuse and neglect by strengthening families, enhancing the parent-child relationship and improving child health.

During her testimony, Jaime demonstrated the value that the Healthy Families Illinois home visiting program provides to children, families and communities. Jaime told the story of a pregnant 14-year-old girl from Central Illinois, who entered Children’s Home + Aid’s Healthy Families program nearly two years ago. When she first entered the program, the young girl was pregnant and not in school. Although in the care of her grandmother, she lived with an abusive boyfriend. Less than two years later, at age 16, she regularly attends school and is doing well in her classes. She also ended her abusive relationship. Our staff is now working with her to get past the trauma of her sexual assault by a relative who is the father of her child. Additionally, her child is now enrolled at Children’s Home + Aid’s Scott Early Learning Center.

The 14-year-old mom Jaime spoke of was the only new parent that Children’s Home + Aid was able to enroll in the Healthy Families program in 2016 because of the state budget crisis. Healthy Families went the entire fiscal year in FY16 without being paid. Although the program was included in the stopgap budget through December 31, 2016, Children’s Home + Aid had to dramatically reduce the program’s services during FY16 and close cases. Children’s Home + Aid is not the only agency providing home visiting that has drastically reduced or eliminated services. Advocates estimate that nine programs have closed their DHS-funded home visiting services since FY16.

Children’s Home + Aid urges the Illinois General Assembly to pass a state budget for the rest of FY17 and to pass a fully-funded budget for FY18 that includes $16.9 million for the Healthy Families Illinois and Parents Too Soon home visiting programs in the Illinois Department of Human Services budget.