Voluntary home-visits help prevent crime, improve access to healthcare, education

HARRISBURG, Pa. - The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller knows all too well the challenges of being a first-time mom.

"I think as moms we just assume we are going to know what to do," said Miller. "I'm an educated person but I don't know how to parent a child or what I'm doing with a child."

After having her daughter, Miller enrolled in one of five evidence-based home visiting programs DHS currently offers. She chose the 'Parent as Teachers' program. A home-visitor stops by twice a month with different educational and behavioral activities and also to answer any questions parents have.

"She's just like a child whisperer," said Miller. "She knows how to get kids to do things other people like me have no idea how you do that."

DHS joined several other county agencies Wednesday morning to discuss the importance of the programs. Dauphin County District Attorney Fran Chardo says he's seen a pattern when it comes to who he's prosecuting. The children of people prosecuted years ago are now being prosecuted themselves. Home visiting programs can help break those cycles.

"Giving people the tools so they are good parents," said Chardo. "It's a tough, tough job. Toughest job there is is being a parent and this gives them the tools to be effective at that job."

Not only do parents get help with the skills they need to raise their children but also get connected to other services they can use.

"It's why it's so scary in some ways to have someone come into your home," said Miller. "They can really help connect you to so many other things and unless you're in someone's home you may not see what's really happening and you may not see if you can just fix that you can make a huge difference for that family."

DHS has received an additional $15 million for home-visiting programs since Governor Wolf took office. The department is hoping when the Governor delivers his State of the State Address in a few weeks, more money will be allocated to continue improving the programs.

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