SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 Utah) – Utah children under the age of one are twice as likely to experience abuse or neglect. There’s a program investing in those kids to make sure they don’t go down the wrong path in life.
Members of the law enforcement organization Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, aim to protect public safety by promoting solutions that steer kids away from crime. Tuesday, the organization released a new report, Parenting Works: The Public Safety and Economic Benefits of Home Visiting in Utah. According to the report, voluntary home visits with single or at-risk parents, help to cut crime and put kids on a more productive path in life.
Volunteers with The Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program, visit the homes of parents who ask for their help, and help engage their children in positive activity from an early age. The goal is that the child will be less likely to be involved in crime later in life.
“If you provide parents with critical parenting tools, they will have what they need to foster academic success in their kids,” said Chief Mike Brown, Salt Lake City Police Department. “When parents engage their child in positive activity from an early age, the likelihood of that same child being involved in a crime down the road is much less. A strong start can make all the difference and home visiting offers just that.”
Multiple police departments throughout the state back the program.
“You’re teaching the parents more so than the child. You’re helping them develop parenting skills so that they can be good parents,” Chief Douglas Diamond, West Jordan Police Department, told Good4Utah’s Brittany Johnson.
According to the report, nearly 9,600 children in Utah experience abuse or neglect each year. Research shows that children who experience abuse or neglect are twice as likely to commit crime by age 19, compared to similar children who have not been abused or neglected. This report build the case that investing in children early, is less costly than spending money in the state prison system.
“It’s much more cost effective for us to prevent crime than it is to deal with crime after it happened,” said Chief Diamond.
Program officials are currently urging Congress to reauthorize funding for the program before it expires on September 30 of this year.
If there’s no more funding “then there’s going to be 775 families that here, are not provided with those services,” Chief Diamond said. “that means 775 children that may, we don’t know for sure, but that may be victims of child abuse. We want to prevent that. I want children to be safe in the community.”
Congress will need to provide necessary funding, not only to sustain the program for the parents and children currently enrolled, but also to expand MIECHV so that more families have access.