Washington’s Home Visiting System Gets Accolades from Federal Expert
June 5th, 2013 by Holly Wyrwich
You have heard of “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” But what about all the other preventive services and supports that help a person thrive – mental health, school readiness, physical health and wellness – all the way from birth to adulthood? And what about measures to lift up adults as they become parents?
It is this whole-person, whole-family and whole-community approach to the earliest years that excites Dr. David Willis about working in early childhood services. Willis serves as the director of the Division of Home Visiting and Early Childhood Systems for the Maternal and Child Health Bureau of the federal Health Resources and Services Administration; previously, he was a clinician for 30 years and long-standing early childhood leader in Oregon who first founded the Northwest Early Childhood Institute.
Willis spent most of this week in Seattle, meeting with our state’s leaders in building, supporting and funding a system for home visiting.
“We’re really in the business of building health with the broad definition of health,” Dr. Willis told the Thrive by Five Washington board today.
Dr. Willis called Washington’s Home Visiting Services Account (HVSA) a “game-changer” in early learning because it is built on a public-private partnership with a shared vision. Thrive administers the HVSA, which is overseen by the state Department of Early Learning. In 2012, the HVSA won two competitive, multi-year federal grants totaling nearly $27 million as part of the federal Maternal, Infant Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV). MIECHV is a program of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Dr. Willis commended Thrive because as a “backbone organization,” it helps build a system with multiple partners, strong communications, measurement and mutually reinforcing action.
In his meeting with the Thrive board, Dr. Willis also explained the “downward pressure” of stress and trauma that pushes negative effects “right on into the next generation.” But there is a way to end the cycle.
In addition to the proven benefits of home visiting, when a community believes in hope, holds a positive outlook and rallies around the young children in their community, those messages have a mitigating effect on the next generation and their stressors and trauma, Willis said.
Dr. Willis emphasized that families want to know that their kids will do well and be successful into the future and that children are resilient and have great potential to succeed if they have the opportunity. With Washington’s HVSA, we are helping support those children and families.
“I can’t be more proud of being a Northwest citizen,” he said.