The Federal Experiment with Evidence-Based Funding
Federal and state governments spend hundreds of billions of dollars every year on social service and education programs that are well-intentioned, but typically unproven and often ineffective. As a result, Congress and President Obama have called for greater reliance on evidence-based programs.
One of the few federal programs to condition funding on such evidence is the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (better known as the Home Visiting Program), a part of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). The law’s insistence that program effectiveness be proven with rigorous research provides a promising template for future state and federal funding legislation.
Unfortunately, Congress did not complement its stiff research design requirements for the program with equally meaningful requirements for the minimum outcomes needed for a home visiting model to qualify for federal funds. At present, the law has no minimum thresholds for effect size, duration, consistency, replication, or salience. To insure that it funds the efforts most likely to improve children’s lives, Congress should add minimum requirements for each of these outcomes when it reauthorizes this funding program.