Upton honored for support of at-risk children, families

Published 9:53 am Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Longtime U.S. Congressman Fred Upton was honored Tuesday morning in Niles for his efforts in helping at-risk children and families through his work in on Capitol Hill.

Berrien County Sheriff L. Paul Bailey presented Upton, R-Michigan, with a plaque recognizing him for his leadership at the federal level in supporting the passage of the Maternal, Infant and Early Childcare Home Visiting program, or MIECHV.

Leader photo/CRAIG HAUPERT Fred Upton, left, receives a plaque from Berrien County Sheriff L. Paul Bailey Tuesday.

Leader photo/CRAIG HAUPERT
Fred Upton, left, receives a plaque from Berrien County Sheriff L. Paul Bailey Tuesday.

The ceremony took place in a courtroom at the Berrien County South Courthouse and was attended by State Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph; Tom Pearce, national director of Shepherding the Next Generation; and Pastor Brian Hall, of Watervliet Free Methodist Church.

Upton said MIECHV was created with bipartisan support in order to provide states and communities with funds to implement voluntary home visiting for at-risk, expectant and new mothers. Federal lawmakers recently extended the program for another two years.

“These investments are really going to make a difference — not only in parents, but even more importantly in our kids,” Upton said. “There is nothing worse than an abused child.”

The help comes in the form of trained nurses or professionals — think parent coaches — who teach new or expectant mothers how to properly navigate stressful parenting situations, attend a child’s needs and keep it safe.

Pearce said research has shown that these types of programs reduce the risk of a child being abused by nearly 50 percent.

“That alone is an incredible statement,” he said.

Since 2010, Michigan has received more than $31 million in federal dollars for voluntary home visiting. It is used for evidence-based programs that establish measurable benchmarks for outcomes such as improved maternal and child health, childhood injury prevention and school readiness.

Bailey said programs funded through MIECHV also help keep kids — and parents — out of trouble, out of the judicial system and out of correctional facilities.

“Ten years ago we booked 9,000 people into our jail, now we are booking 7,000 people in,” he said. “We see firsthand what happens to our children out there that don’t have the programs that they need.

“That’s why we are so supportive of our legislators… who make sure we have the tools down here to get the job done and help our children.”

Proos said putting money into these types of programs ultimately decreases the amount the state spends on corrections — about $2 billion annually.

“Every dollar that we save there we can be invested someplace else in making healthy families strong for the future and kids that are not losing parents along the way to the correctional system,” he said.

In Michigan, MIECHV funded home visiting models include the Nurse Family Partnership, Healthy Families, Parents as Teachers and Early Head Start.

Proos said the Nurse Family Partnership is run through many of the churches in southwest Michigan. People can find out more about MIECHV programs through the Department of Human Services.