Ruqiyyah Anbar-Shaheen, DC Home Visiting Council Chair and DC Action for Children Director of Early Childhood Policy and Programs, and Fernanda Ruiz, DC Home Visiting Council Program Committee Co-Chair and Mary’s Center Home Visiting Director, wrote for Under3DC about the importance of sustaining funding in the DC budget for vital home visiting programs.
The stress of parenting through a public health crisis is universal – home visiting family support workers know this well. Children are upset that their routines have been disrupted – they can’t see their friends and teachers or even go to the playground. Meanwhile, parents are struggling with weightier worries about losing jobs, making rent, and buying food, not to mention trying to keep the family healthy. Some of these concerns are new, others are on-going, exacerbated by the instability wrought by the public health emergency. This moment makes it clear: more than ever, we must continue funding programs like home visiting that support families of young children.
A few weeks after DC residents were ordered to stay home, DC Councilmember Robert White tweeted, “My 3-year-old daughter just prayed ‘for the bad cold to go away from the school and for no one else to get sick.’ She misses her school, her friends and playing at the playground. Parents, this is rough. Any suggestions on what you’re doing to ease this pain for your kids?”
As the strain of long-term isolation grows, families around the District are feeling the pain White describes, and then some. For some families, the pandemic has introduced or amplified the kind of stressors that put children at greater risk of abuse and neglect. In this moment, we are reminded that child abuse is the not the result of a single risk factor but the accumulation of risk factors and toxic stress. Research shows that home visiting programs are instrumental in helping families mitigate these challenges and preventing child abuse. This is critical because, in DC, one-third of children with confirmed cases of abuse or neglect are under age five.