Sen. Pacione-Zayas

SPRINGFIELD – A legislative initiative introduced by State Senator Cristina H. Pacione-Zayas codifies home visiting programs administered by the Department of Human Services for over 30 years. Home visiting is an essential program in the early childhood ecosystem that helps eligible parents and caregivers support their child’s development from the prenatal phase through age five.

“We have to acknowledge that when a child is born, a parent is born as well. All parents desire to provide the best upbringing for their children, but instruction manuals do not come with each child. Unexpected challenges can arise for families and potentially undermine their ability to meet these needs,” said Pacione-Zayas (D-Chicago). “Home visiting programs are evidence-based and aim to support bond building, connect families to critical community resources, and provide guidance on wellness and development to contribute to optimal child outcomes and greater family stability.”

Typical home visits involve in-person interviews with family members and caregivers, guidance on promoting safety in the family’s living space, coaching on approaches to parenting that promote healthy development.  “Start Early has long championed the importance of home visiting programs for expecting and new families. We are excited to see SB1794 advance, which ensures these programs have the legal authority to continue to support Illinois families for generations to come,” said Ireta Gasner, Vice President Illinois Policy. 

Currently, DHS home visiting programs exist because of budget appropriations from the state or the federal government. This initiative to codify DHS home visiting programs contributes to the sustainability of critical resources for families with young children and sets the stage for increased investments as proposed in the Governor JB Pritzker’s Smart Start Illinois plan. As such, Senator Pacione-Zayas, a longtime early childhood advocate, has been leading the charge to deepen the knowledge of General Assembly members to understand the importance of investing in the early years through a series of subject matter hearings in the Senate Early Childhood Committee.  

Senate Bill 1794 passed the Senate Health and Human Services committee on March 7, 2023. It now goes to the Senate floor for further consideration.