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Federal parent support program set to expire; Nebraska woman urging lawmakers to renew it

Published: Apr. 26, 2022 at 4:46 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - It’s a program that changes the lives of Nebraska families each year, but it could end in a matter of months.

The program changed the life of Mackenzie Schreiber.

Just two years ago, Schreiber’s life looked much different than it does today. She was homeless and addicted to drugs.

“I was in a really dark place,” Schreiber said. “I was struggling with addiction and I was seven months pregnant at the time.”

Schreiber was arrested and lost custody of her firstborn.

“I was going to do whatever I had to do to get my son back. So, everything they threw at me that they wanted me to do, I did. They didn’t have to ask me twice,” said Schreiber.

Fast forward to today, the Scottsbluff mom has full custody of her 2-year-old son Jackson. She also has 4-month-old Sean Jr.

She graduates from school next month and plans to become a drug and alcohol counselor. Her transformation is thanks to several state programs that helped her to overcome her addiction, as well as one federally funded program.

She benefitted from the maternal infant early childhood home visiting program. She says it’s given her countless tools to succeed as a mom.

“We do fun activities and I learn different things, how to care for him properly. Different things like that have just been very impactful.”

The program, also known as MIECHV, helps parents who struggle with things like poverty and substance abuse, from the time they get pregnant until their kids turn six.

It’s set to expire in September unless Congress votes to reauthorize it. Social workers say MIECH-V, is crucial for the well-being of children in the state.

“I view this program as a prevention piece for child abuse and neglect,” home visitor Jennifer Buxbaum said. “I feel that if this were to expire and me and my fellow coworkers aren’t able to be in the home there might be an increase of at least neglect, not necessarily abuse because people don’t know where to turn.”

Maternal infant early childhood home visiting is a free, voluntary program in all 50 states.

“Being a parent doesn’t come with an instruction manual. I feel like there are so many new parents out there or maybe parents who aren’t new but they just really turning a corner in their lives and they need that support,” said Dez Brandt with Healthy Families Nebraska.

Schrieber says she’s living proof MIECH-V works. She is now urging lawmakers to reauthorize the program that helped her turn around her life.

“I never would have thought I could have done that and it’s because of the support that I got through healthy families and through these programs.”

The program also helps military families with at least one parent serving.

Healthy Families America leaders say they not only want Congress to renew the program, but they would also like to see an increase in funding to better help families.

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