Who should get home visits? New Mexico can't say

Don Usner/Searchlight New Mexico

CHI St. Joseph's Children home visitor Amanda Lind helps 30-month-old Lucas pull colored water into a dropper as a fine-motor-skills activity during a home visit in July 2018.

The state knows relatively little about the people served by its nearly three dozen contracted home visiting providers. Nor is there an answer to how many families the program should serve.

According to a 2015 Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) report, providers are not required to collect and report their families' income data or Medicaid status. And, in fact, most home-visiting programs eschew income requirements for participating families.

The 3,200 families served in 2018 represent less than a third of those that should be served, according to the LFC. But that's just a guess, based on the size of Texas' program and guidelines from one of the state's best-regarded home visiting models.

The LFC considers 50 percent of New Mexico's low-income, first-time parents with children up to age 3 a "reasonable" goal. Serving that number, an estimated 11,500 families, would cost up to $44 million annually, the LFC reports.

New Mexico has been moving toward that goal for more than a decade, setting aside more and more state and federal dollars to fund home visiting. But childcare assistance still remains the largest and most developed part of CYFD's suite of early childhood programs.

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