- New Mexico report shows unique value of home visiting programs
ALBUQEURQUE — On behalf of the 70 New Mexico members of the national anti-crime organization, Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, Albuquerque Police Chief Gorden E. Eden, Jr., Cibola County Sheriff Tony Mace and 13th Judicial District Attorney Lemuel Martinez have released a state-specific report, Preventing Crime Through Voluntary Home Visiting.
Joined by New Mexico Parents as Teachers, the law enforcement leaders discussed how voluntary home visiting helps reduce rates of child abuse and neglect, which in turn prevents crime and increases public safety. Parent Education Coordinator and prior parent educator, who performed home visits, Emily Aragon, provided a program overview and shared the story of a family touched by home visiting that she worked with, personally.
The law enforcement leaders called for state legislators to protect critical monies set aside for home visiting and invest even more state funding in the programs to reduce child abuse and neglect and prevent crime in New Mexico.
Each year, approximately 7,600 children in New Mexico experience abuse or neglect. It would take 380 classrooms to hold that number of children. In addition to the immediate repercussions for New Mexico’s children, there are longer-term impacts on the criminal justice system. Children who are abused or neglected are twice as likely to become involved in crime later in life.
While crime rates have trended downward the past two decades in New Mexico, there are still 13,700 violent crimes and 77,000 property crimes committed each year. The costs are wholly unsustainable, both humanely and fiscally. There are more than 7,200 adults incarcerated in state prison and close to 16,500 on probation or parole at a cost of roughly $300 million per year.
“Our children are a precious resource and we must ensure they have the necessary tools to succeed in life and turn away from crime,” Eden Jr. said. “Prevention is key—voluntary home visiting helps struggling families and their children and improves public safety.”
Many child abuse and neglect cases are preventable. Guidance and support provided by advisors to parents in the early years of a child’s life can help prevent abuse and neglect. In voluntary home visiting a coaching relationship between young parents and trained experts is developed. A professional who specializes in early childhood issues partners with parents to lay a strong foundation for the child’s success. In home visiting, new moms and dads receive counseling and support on a range of critical parenting skills.
“As much as we would like them to, babies do not come with an instruction manual and coaching in parenting skills increases the child’s chance of health and wellness,” said Cibola County Sheriff Tony Mace. “Child abuse and neglect can be cut in half by home visiting and reduce crime.”
A demonstrable benefit was observed from home visiting, to both communities and economies. One study found that mothers who received home visits increased their earnings by $3,600 a year, likely because the program helped connect them with education and jobs. As a result of crime reductions and other outcomes, a cost-benefit analysis found that high-quality home visiting programs achieve average savings of $5,000 to $6,000 for each family served.
“Home visiting not only prevents crime and increases public safety, but it impacts families’ economic self-sufficiency, with sustainable savings to communities and economies for each family served,” Martinez said.
Parents as Teachers, a nationally recognized, evidence based model and program that provides home visiting for just under 2,000 families across 13 counties in New Mexico, says that parents in their program are more engaged in their child’s learning and education and feel more confident in their parenting and that there is less abuse and neglect.
“We reduce parent stress by giving them a professional to lean on in times of need,” Aragon said. “We believe that with a little bit of support, families can thrive.”
When recounting the story of a young couple whom Parents as Teachers had assisted, Aragon quoted the independence the program instilled in them.
“As parents, they reported that they felt empowered to have a parent educator who they could trust,” she said.
Fight Crime: Invest in Kids takes a hard-nosed look at the strategies proven to reduce crime. Armed with research, its more than 5,000 members make the case for solutions that cut crime and put kids on the path to productive lives.