Iowa Law Directs Home Visiting Funds to Proven Programs
Iowa has emerged as a national leader for using solid evidence and data-driven accountability systems to get the best possible outcomes from its home visiting investments.
In May, bipartisan majorities in the legislature approved policies that strengthen the state’s ability to get the full, cost-saving benefits of voluntary home visiting. These include fewer low-birthweight babies, lower rates of child abuse and neglect, improved school achievement and more self-sufficient families. Through these reforms, Iowa’s home visiting investment should deliver results for participating families and solid returns for taxpayers.
The new law requires that, by 2016, at least 90 percent of home visiting dollars must support programs with a record of achieving one or more meaningful family outcomes. The phase-in period allows for smooth transitions in communities that need to change programs to meet the state’s standards for evidence. It also supports efforts to match each family requesting help with the program most suitable to its goals.
The law also improves oversight by requiring that all programs report on the state funds spent, the number and characteristics of families served and child and parent outcomes achieved. These data enable the state to track the performance of home visiting programs and refine its funding strategy from year to year.
Iowa’s reforms build on the state’s previous commitment to home visiting, and are based on a policy framework developed by the Pew Home Visiting Campaign. Pew’s nationwide survey of states’ home visiting programs found that most lacked policies that link funding to program effectiveness and that few adequately monitored family outcomes.
The law has support from a broad coalition including policy makers, state agency staff, advocates, home visiting providers, and leaders in the health care and business communities. Crucial legislative leadership came from Senators Jack Hatch, Bill Dix, David Johnson and Brian Schoenjahn, as well as Representatives Cecil Dolacheck, Dave Heaton, Lisa Heddens and Cindy Winkler. Governor Terry Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds also provided key support for the initiative.
The policies were adopted within appropriations bills SF 2321 and SF 2336. Read an example of the legislative language for Iowa’s reforms.