Home visiting services can help a baby and mother during pregnancy and after birth by helping the parent connect to resources that can improve their family’s health, safety, and economic security. Though Los Angeles County has relied on state and federal funds to invest in home visiting services, the County lacks the capacity to reach all women who need this help. To address this inequity, today the Board of Supervisors approved a motion, authored by Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, that directs pertinent departments to report back with strategies on how to expand services to women who are sheltered or unsheltered and are experiencing homelessness.
“Intervening during pregnancy and infancy to support vulnerable mothers can promote a child’s well-being in the long run,” said Supervisor Solis. “We must support mothers and their infants by investing in services that help them in those critical first three years of a child’s early development. These efforts are necessary to lift families out of hardship and set them on course to self-reliance.”
LA County’s home visiting programs have helped mothers and families for over 10 years. Studies of home visiting programs have shown these services lead to a decrease in domestic violence, smoking during pregnancy, and a significant drop in pre-term births, with a majority of babies born at a healthy weight. Home visiting services can also create a nurturing home life during a child’s critical first three years of life, when their brain is rapidly developing.
The County’s programs, however, lack the means to reach and retain contact with women at homeless shelters who need these services. In 2018, the Department of Public Health (DPH) assisted 112 women who had experienced homelessness at some point during their pregnancy. In addition, a recent study by Maternal and Child Health evaluated how homelessness influences birth outcomes for women of color. It revealed Black women are disproportionately affected by homelessness and are also at the highest risk of adverse birth outcomes.
Today’s motion directs DPH, along with the Departments of Mental Health, Health Services, and Children and Family Services, and First 5 LA, to provide in 180 days an unmet needs assessment that will include an overview on how to expand and improve services for vulnerable women who are of childbearing age in LA County and are experiencing homelessness, or are receiving mental health or substance abuse treatment.
This 180-day report back will also explore existing home visitation models to determine how they can be improved to enhance outreach, adaptation, and referrals, in addition to considering other new models of service, and it will include an assessment of the sustainability of LA County’s current home visitation programs, in light of decreasing funding expected in 2020. The report back will also include recommendations for new models of service for vulnerable women in the County, based on similar national outreach programs to high-risk populations, and it will also include a summary of potential funding streams to help sustain appropriate levels of support.
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