In September, Jaime Russell, Children’s Home & Aid Project Manager of Home Visiting Child Welfare Partnership, and Lesley Schwartz, Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development Manager of Program Evaluation (MIECHVP) presented at the MIECHV National Conference. Jaime and Lesley shared the initial findings of the Maternal Infant Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) pilot program.

Supported by MIECHV funding, the I Pick Home Visiting pilot provides home visiting to abused and neglected youth in the foster care system who are pregnant or parents. The pilot brings together the child welfare and early childhood systems to improve outcomes for youth in foster care and their children. Children’s Home + Aid manages the program across nine regions in Illinois and provides home visiting services for the pilot in Bloomington and Sycamore, IL.

Since the pilot began in October 2016, 35 young parents have been referred to the program and 17 are currently receiving services. What do these services look like for the youth being served by the pilot?

Laura became pregnant during her first year at Illinois State University (ISU). Originally from Chicago and as a youth in foster care, Laura had no support in the Bloomington-Normal area. Rather than drop out of school as she was advised to do by her foster care caseworker, Laura decided to continue at ISU and was referred to the Healthy Families home visiting program supported by MIECHV funding. Since her case was opened in February of this year, Laura has been linked with a doula who will assist her at her birth, attended WIC and doctor appointments, and connected to the Bloomington Crisis Nursery for postpartum support. The home visitor has also helped Laura to create a postpartum plan in concert with her professors at ISU to ensure she can continue to attend classes and complete assignments. Laura meets regularly with her home visitor and has expressed that she now feels more confident and prepared for the birth of her child.

The pilot grew out of Children’s Home & Aid’s federally-funded Project Link, an effort to identify and respond to the barriers preventing children in the child welfare system from receiving early childhood services, like home visiting.

Research shows that female foster youth are more likely to become pregnant in their teens compared to non-foster youth. They are also more likely to have repeat pregnancies, making them parents to multiple children at a young age. These effects can be compounded for youth in foster care, who grew up without positive and stable parenting and have experienced trauma. Home visiting has the potential to be a tremendous benefit to this population.

We are excited about partnering with young parents in foster care for this pilot and their potential for brighter futures. We look forward to sharing our results as the pilot progresses.