State program needs to be cut
The Children First Home Visitation Program is a “moribund” government program that is wasting funding that could better serve the targeted population, according to one state lawmaker.
House Bill 1063, by state Rep. Mark McCullough would disband the Children First Program, return federal Affordable Care Act funding and suspend three smaller home visitation programs until an audit could be performed.
“It is my opinion at this point in my career at the Legislature that very few programs or agencies will actually work to reform themselves or improve their quality of service,” said McCullough, R-Sapulpa. “There are some that do, but the service provided by Children First has steadily declined. Equally important, the model is obsolete. We are using an Obamacare grant to expand an obsolete program languishing in mediocrity when we could be funding a better home visitation program.”
McCullough said he is a proponent of home visitation, when done right, which intervenes in the lives of fragile and broken families.
“Home visitation is an increasingly significant part of the social services the state provides,” said McCullough, R-Sapulpa. “However, we must be good stewards of the dollars we spend on these programs. This is not a witch hunt. I am not angry with anyone. I am just trying to be a responsible steward of tax dollars and an advocate for the true mission of home visitation programs. If relatives fail to help an at-risk family and the church fails to help, then the government must. It is in our best interest to intervene early. And if we’re going to do it, let’s do it right.”
Despite receiving only 11 percent less in funding than in 2001, the agency now serves 56 percent fewer individuals (a drop of approximately 4,500 individuals). Father involvement in the families served by the program decreases by 10 percent over a 6-month period when while other qualitative measures, at best, show small improvement over the control group.
“For the price tag of $14 million, plus another $9 million in Affordable Health Care Act funding, we get little improvement, and in some cases, worse results,” McCullough said. “I was amazed to see father involvement decline in the group served by the program.”
“It is my desire that the Oklahoma State Health Department and all those who are advocates of effective home visitation programs would step forward,” McCullough said. “We need to wind down Children First and look hard at the apparent proliferation of these welfare programs and put a new, solid model in place that the Legislature can keep track of and, most importantly, does the job.”