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Home Visits for Lower-Income Moms Among California Programs Facing Budget Cuts

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Two women sit on the floor while a baby sits between them.
A public health nurse visits a new parent at home in San Jose, California. (Lea Suzuki/The San Francisco Chronicle/Getty Images)

Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders are negotiating the state’s final budget by July 1 after failing to agree on several sticking points, including how much social spending the state will cut.

To plug a multibillion-dollar deficit, Newsom proposed in May to halt a multi-year plan to add 200,000 subsidized child care spaces by 2028 and cut 40% in funding for a program that prioritizes emergency child care for foster children and another 45% for another program that provides home visits to CalWORKS-eligible moms.

Advocates say that would set back five years of work building a program that has been shown to improve the health and well-being of parents and children born into poverty.

“At a time when there needs to be more investment in the future, taking these kinds of programs away is really just shooting ourselves in the foot,” said Charna Widby, deputy director of Riverside County’s First Five commission, who has been helping to expand the program there.


The CalWORKS home visiting program matches recipients with a nurse, social worker or trained professional for regular visits around the birth and first two years of a child’s life. Advocates say these voluntary home visits can be a lifeline to families during a vulnerable and sometimes isolating life stage. An independent evaluation of the program found that when the participants were referred to housing or mental health services, the majority accessed them. What’s more, participating children received developmental screening at a higher rate than children on Medi-Cal.

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Widby said it had taken a few years to train the workforce and build the system to provide home visits.

“But it’s started to pick up steam in building capacity, especially in the last two years, so to destabilize that now kind of eliminates a large investment that the state and counties have been making,” she said.

If the cuts proposed by Newsom go through, Widby said Riverside County can only serve about 200 families — out of more than 20,000 who could be eligible. Legislative leaders want to preserve spending levels for the program in the preliminary budget they passed Thursday.

In far Northern California, 13 out of 35 currently enrolled families in Humboldt County could lose access to the home visiting program, said Kathryn O’Malley, supervising public health nurse at the county’s Department of Health & Human Services.

“Rural communities have less infrastructure to serve families, and most importantly, those families with the greatest social and economic needs,” she said. “We have less access to transportation, low-income housing, subsidized child care and specialty medical care. Providing home visiting services helps close some of the gaps and assists with accessing services.”

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