BOISE, Idaho — At Thursday's annual Idaho Voices for Children event, dozens of Idahoans celebrated the hard work that went into policy reform making way for programs like home visiting-- a program that one mother said changed her and her childrens' lives forever.
"You don't leave the hospital with a with a textbook on how to raise children," said Hillarie Hagen, mother of two, home visiting participant.
Idaho Voices for Children aims to help Idaho's families in need.
"It's really critical that we reach vulnerable families before problems occur," said Lauren Necochea, Director, Idaho Voices for Children.
One way they aim to do that? By putting a trained nurse or early educator in your home when your kids are small and you need them most.
"Home visiting helps families increase their financial stability, it helps kids get ready for school, and it also reduced incidents of child abuse and neglect," said Necochea.
A Nurse Family Partnership study revealed that child abuse and neglect went down by 48 percent in families that received home visiting.
Now, for the second year, the nonprofit celebrates securing a $1.6 million dollar investment from the state of Idaho.
"This is gonna help put families on the path to success," said Necochea.
Hagen is one mother who has benefitted from the service.
"She came to our home and she brought educational activities, she brought information on development... every time I think about it, I just wanna cry because I know how much of a difference it in made in their lives," said Hagen, of her children.
Right now her family is what you could call "thriving." But that, she said, wasn't always the case. Hagen struggled to make ends meet when she had her first child at the age of 18.
"I worked part-time nights at Little Caesar's for a couple years when my kids were very little... I was really scared. I was going through bouts of depression," said Hagen.
She said her home visitor came over regularly, free of charge, for five years.
One of her sons had colic and cried for the first three months of his life, said Hagen.
"She was able to come out and ease my fears and tell me what was normal," said Hagen.
But now, she says there are long waitlists for the service, and the new state funds only support home visiting programs for 12 out of 44 of Idaho's counties.
"It just scratches the surface of what Idaho really needs," said Hagen.
According to The Pew, "well designed and well implemented home visiting programs can return up to $5.70 per taxpayer dollar invested by reducing societal costs associated with poor health and academic failure."
She hopes Idahoans will take action to support home visiting. To learn more about it and to learn how you can donate, visit idahovoices.org.