An innovative collaboration and referral process between Montana’s Child and Family Services Division (CFSD) and the Department of Public Health and Safety (DPHHS) aims to reduce child abuse and neglect and child deaths in Montana.
Last year, Montana’s First Years Initiative (FYI) launched in five Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) communities to provide home visitors who were exclusively dedicated to CFSD cases. The selected communities were identified based on high rates of child maltreatment reports and child removals, and the home visitors are housed within the current infrastructure of the statewide federally-funded home visiting program.
The program’s success led to expansion in three waves and the program is currently being implemented across the state. Thirteen local implementing agencies have a MIECHV-funded full-time-equivalent home visitor dedicated to FYI. These home visitors collaborate closely with child protection specialists to provide increased services and support for high-risk families. Like the other state home visiting programs, these voluntary services support healthy pregnancy outcomes, child health and development, and strong parent-child relationships. Additionally, home visitors partner with parents or parents-to-be to engage in early intervention on a wide range of issues a family may face—from health and safety risks, to mental health, domestic violence, drug/alcohol abuse, and barriers to community resources.
Early results show that families enrolled in this new service have decreased timelines for reaching closure on Child Protective Service cases compared to families who are not enrolled. Additionally, there is increased enrollment in home visiting programs with state programs now at capacity.