Dear Congress: Parents Don’t Need the Government’s Help to Raise Their Children


The progressives in the federal government are very good at “not letting a crisis go to waste,” especially in relation to the disastrous government-created crisis of single-parent families. After subsidizing illegitimacy since the 1960s, 40 percent of families in the U.S. are headed by single parents.

So what is the Left’s solution? Instead of reversing those catastrophic policies by promoting two-parent family formation as welfare programs are reformed, they are sending government agents into homes to tell parents how to raise their children according to government standards. And while they are at it, they are collecting all sorts of data on children and their families to see how it is all working out.

As described in both The Federalist and The National Pulse, these programs are disastrously ineffective. And this is not just my opinion. This is documented fact from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services HomVEE website — a federally conducted review of home visiting programs which studies their effects in a number of realms, including child development (related to school readiness and discussion of preschool strategies, which is a very ephemeral concept), child abuse prevention, and health outcomes. Just as a review, here is chart showing the lack of effectiveness of these programs overall in the child development domain:

Other problems emerging from these currently “voluntary” programs include:

  • Admission by even the National Academy of Sciences that these programs are “invasive” as far back as 20 years ago
  • Loss of Fourth Amendment rights when families agree to have government agents in the home
  • Extensive data collection on children and families
  • Differences of opinion on parenting philosophy
  • Data collection without consent to “invite” families into the program
  • Possible coercion or undue influence for stressed pregnant women to participate similar to what can occur in research projects
  • Potentially very brief training of the home visitors

In addition to targeting poor families and single mothers, current law sends government agents into the homes of “[e]ligible families who, or that include individuals who, are serving or formerly served in the Armed Forces, including such families that have members of the Armed Forces who have had multiple deployments outside of the United States.” So the federal nannies will even invade the homes of military families that sacrifice so much for all of us to “help” them parent according to government concepts of correct parenting.

This current program started under Obamacare in 2010. After nearly expiring twice, it was funded to the tune of $400 million per year for the last four years, with the most recent round of funding expiring last Saturday. The House passed the Republican-sponsored Increasing Opportunity through Evidence-Based Home Visiting Act (HR 2824) on September 26th in an attempt to reauthorize it. This bill has some improvements, such as requiring a state match for the federal funds by 2022 and the opportunity to do pay-for-performance grant programs. Ultimately, though, this is putting conservative lipstick on a very ineffective, invasive, and expensive progressive pig.

Rather than sending government agents into the home, the feds should be promoting two-parent families, which much research shows prevents all of the social ills home visiting programs are trying to prevent. On top of that, the bill increases data collection systems significantly, requiring them to link (interoperability) and collect longitudinal data on “employment and earnings” much like the equally concerning College Transparency Act.

HR 2824 barely passed by a vote of 214 to 209. All but two of the Democrats voted against it due to the accountability measures, along with twenty Republicans, twelve of whom are members of the Freedom Caucus (see the table below), who are more likely to oppose the bill based on its ineffectiveness and totalitarian aspects. It is much harder to vote against the position of one’s own party, but a “no” vote was definitely best in this situation, so these twenty Republicans are to be commended:

J. Amash – MI M. Brooks – AL A. Harris – MD S. Perry – PA
J. Arrington – TX M. Gaetz – FL J. Hice – GA F. Rooney – FL
A. Biggs – AZ T. Garrett – VA W. Jones – NC D. Webster – FL
D. Brat – VA P. Gosar – AZ J. Jordan – OH T. Yoho – FL
J. Duncan – TN M. Griffith – VA T. Massie – KY D. Young – IA


A similar bipartisan bill without the state-matching requirement was introduced in the Senate but did not receive a vote this week. This means that the program is dead for now. Let us hope for the sake of our children and freedom, as budget discussions proceed, this program does not receive financial CPR.

Karen R. Effrem, MD

Dr. Karen Effrem and her husband have three children. She is trained as a pediatrician and serves as national education issues chairman for Eagle Forum and president of Education Liberty Watch.

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