Introduced by Senator Ayer of Addison District, Senator Giard of Addison District, Senator Kittell of Franklin District and Senator Lyons of Chittenden District
Subject: Health; parent-child centers; appropriation
Statement of purpose: This bill proposes to appropriate funds to establish and support learning together programs through the Vermont network of parent‑child centers.
AN ACT RELATING TO PARENT-CHILD CENTERS
It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:
Sec. 1. FINDINGS
The general assembly finds that:
(1) Thirteen parent-child centers currently offer learning together programs. These centers include the Addison County Parent Child Center in Middlebury, the Family Center of Northwestern Vermont in St. Albans, the Family Place in Norwich, the Lamoille Family Center in Morrisville, the Lund Family Center in Burlington, the VNA/Maternal Child Health Services in Colchester, the Milton Family Community Center in Milton, the NEKCA Parent Child Center in St. Johnsbury, the NEKCA Parent Child Center in Newport, the Orange County Parent Child Center in Randolph, the Rutland County Parent Child Center in Rutland, the Springfield Area Parent Child Center in Springfield, and the Sunrise Family Resource Center in Bennington.
(2) The Addison County parent-child center is a private, nonprofit family support and educational organization established in 1980 by concerned parents, professionals, and community members.
(3) Consistently, external evaluations of the Addison County
parent-child center conducted by Dr. Herman Meyers, professor of evaluation and research at the University of Vermont, and Dr. Cheryl Mitchell of the Vermont Research Partnership at the University and Action Research, Inc., have concluded that, as a direct result of its programs, significant progress has been made in the prevention of adolescent pregnancy, repeat pregnancy, low birth weight, infant mortality, child abuse, family violence, and other destructive behaviors.
(4) Due to the exemplary outcomes experienced in Addison County, in 1988, the state of Vermont began funding parent-child centers. Today 16 centers cover the state and offer eight core services, including home visits, early childhood services, parent education, parent support, on-site services, playgroups, information and referral, and community development. They are funded by myriad state and local initiatives developed to support young families. Reach Up and Healthy Babies Kids and Families are two of the programs that help fund the centers. These initiatives, which cross the agency of human services and the department of education, are linked to assure coordination and nonduplication of efforts and to help families understand and eventually gain control of their own lives. A specifically designed data system tracks outcomes across the various initiatives, each designed to meet the particular needs of its community.
(5) The Addison County parent-child center offers in addition to the eight core services, an intensive, in-house training program for young parents, parents to be, and teens at risk of becoming parents too young, known as the learning together program. This program provides the opportunity to build simultaneously self-esteem and communication skills and job readiness and retention skills, as well as parenting skills. It is also an alternative education site supported by Addison County high schools. Learning together participants spend half of their time each week in a job site under the supervision of an adult mentor. The other half of their time is spent in a variety of academic classes, counseling, and topical workshops. Wrap-around support services are provided through home visitors.
(6) The well-tested outcomes of this Addison County program offer Vermont a prevention and early intervention model of great promise.
(7) National statistics show that the repeat pregnancy rate for teen parents is 50 percent within two years. Only 11 percent of the teens served by this program have repeat pregnancies within five years.
(8) It was estimated in the December 2000 finance report of the Vermont agency of human services that each teen pregnancy costs taxpayers $20,500.00 per year.
(9) According to the FY02 agency of human services report to the legislature on parent-child centers, Addison County has the lowest rate of adjudicated youth in the state. There have been no adjudications among learning together program participants in spite of their high-risk status based on histories of abuse, violence, failure in school, and poverty.
(10) More than 80 percent of learning together program graduates leave the program to go on to regular employment. The Addison County parent‑child center has the highest success rate in the state in moving Reach Up participants from welfare to work.
(11) Ninety percent of learning together program participants enter the program after having dropped out of high school. Seventy-five percent leave with a high school diploma or its equivalent.
(12) Perhaps most importantly, national data show that 50 percent of the children of teen parents become teen parents themselves. Longitudinal data from the Addison County parent-child center shows that less than 10 percent of the children over age 14 served by the program have become parents themselves. That means that in just one generation, the cycle of adolescent pregnancy with the attendant social and fiscal costs to society can be broken.
(13) The learning together program has been chosen by the National Center for the Study of Social Policy as one of the 21 most effective programs in the United States for the prevention of abuse and neglect.
(14) The Vermont parent-child center network has made the replication of learning together its number one priority. In 2001, the network received a five-year grant from the federal Office of Adolescent Pregnancy Programs to train the other parent-child centers in the learning together model. To date, learning together programs, adapted to meet specific community needs, are available in nine additional counties. Funding for the programs is pieced together through existing state initiatives and through private foundation grants.
(15) Each parent-child center has the capacity to integrate the learning together components into its existing programs and to extend its services beyond adolescents to young adults and their children.
(16) All centers piece together funding to keep their programs running, but the administrative cost of doing this could be better spent providing increased services.
(17) The learning together model once established and integrated into wrap-around services for high-risk families will need sustainable funding. Reporting to only one major funding source would reduce the overhead costs associated with the requirements of having multiple funding sources.
(18) Until the cycle of poverty is broken for these young families, there is little hope for future generations. This program coupled with the expertise already existing in the parent-child centers can do what it takes to help these families become self-sufficient as well as improve the parenting skills that are so needed. National data now clearly have proven that services need to get to families from the very beginning, and that money spent on prevention programs reaps great financial benefit in the long run.
Sec. 2. APPROPRIATION
There is appropriated to the parent-child center network established under chapter 37 of Title 33 the amount of $1.4 million in general funds to be distributed to existing parent-child centers for the establishment and maintenance of learning together programs.
The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street