Black mother looking at their newborn child

Critical Need for Investment in Home Visiting

In the final installment of our series on Governor Pritzker’s Smart Start Illinois initiative, Director of Home Visiting & Doula Network of Illinois Mark Valentine, Senior Policy Manager Allison Lowe-Fotos and Policy Manager Kayla Goldfarb share more about the impact Smart Start Illinois would have on our state’s Home Visiting system.

May 18, 2023
  • Policy and Systems
  • Blog

The Governor’s multi-year Smart Start Illinois proposal includes important and unprecedented increases to home visiting programs: a $75 million proposed increase to the Early Childhood Block Grant (ECBG) under the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), which includes the Prevention Initiative home visiting program, as well as a $5 million increase to the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) home visiting programs. Passage of the Governor’s proposed fiscal year 2024 budget and implementation of Smart Start Illinois will have a significant impact on home visiting services in Illinois by bolstering supports to recruit and retain a diverse and highly-qualified workforce and dramatically expanding the reach of programs to serve more children and families.

Illinois has a long and robust history of supporting home visiting services as a key pillar in the continuum of infant/early childhood services that strengthen the caregiver-child relationship and connect families to vital community resources to support long-term healthy development and well-being. Annually, Illinois serves an estimated 22,000 families across multiple home visiting models supported by a mix of state and federal funding streams. But we know that more families could benefit from these services, and that the home visiting workforce is at a crisis point with low wages driving turnover, which impacts family retention.

Start Early recommends that increased funds should be used to raise wages for home visitors to sustainable and respectful levels, as well as expand program access, particularly for prenatal and doula services and improve access to these services for families with infants and toddlers. As ISBE and IDHS work to grow the reach of programs, funding should also be used for capacity building or a separate funding opportunity to help start new programs in needed areas, as well as for supports, such as Infant/Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation, and enhancements for programs serving priority populations.

Contact Your Legislator

Smart Start Illinois aims to expand and strengthen early care and education services to help ensure all expecting families, infants, toddlers and preschoolers across the state have what they need to be happy, healthy and ready to learn. That said, a proposed plan is just that, a proposed plan – until it’s made a reality. Urge your legislators to prioritize Illinois’s youngest learners in the state’s FY 2024 final budget.

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Much has been accomplished in the home visiting system and this proposal can work to make permanent advances to the system – including innovations in service delivery and additional professional supports – that were gained using federal pandemic relief funding. Looking ahead, to lay the groundwork for Smart Start Illinois, the state agencies that fund home visiting will need to ensure there is a coordinated approach to implementing funding increases, workforce supports and compensation adjustments, and other infrastructure improvements.

The proposal must now be approved by the Illinois General Assembly and we urge you to encourage your legislators to pass a fiscal year 2024 budget that aligns with Smart Start Illinois. Babies do not come with instruction manuals, but home visiting may be the next best thing. This significant investment in home visiting programs will ensure that more families of young children thrive–and our babies can’t wait. 

This blog post is the fourth in a series outlining the Early Childhood components of Governor Pritzker’s Smart Start Illinois initiative, a proposed multi-year investment in our state’s Early Intervention, Child Care, Home Visiting, and Pre-K systems.

More From This Series

This blog series outlines the Early Childhood components of Governor Pritzker’s Smart Start Illinois initiative, a proposed multi-year investment in our state’s Early Intervention, Child Care, Home Visiting, and Pre-K systems.