Oregon lawmaker says proposed study to help children, not promote surveillance

State Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward is the bill's co-sponsor.

The headline in an article posted Thursday on the PJ Media website made it seem like Oregon lawmakers would impose surveillance on newborns and their parents.

Actually, Senate Bill 526 would only allow a study of what health officials say would be a statewide voluntary program for parents with newborn babies.

"What we're trying to explore and to study is what would it look like if every family who had a newborn was offered a service for additional supports in their homes as they integrate their child into their family," said Oregon Health Authority Maternal Child Manager Cate Wilcox.

Lincoln County already runs a small pilot program doing that. It's called Babies First Home Visits. Click here for a link to the program website.

A number of counties across the country have similar programs.

Oregon health officials say Illinois and Texas are considering statewide programs too -- all voluntary and all based on studies by Duke University in North Carolina.

Those studies were highlighted in congressional testimony last March. They show outreach programs like those proposed to be studied in SB 526 cut down on problems that lead to child abuse.

Kenneth Dodge, a Duke University early learning policy, psychology and neuroscience professor, said during a hearing on military domestic violence and child abuse before the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel: "Maternal depression or domestic violence or family financial instability or maybe for a young person a lack of knowledge about child development and parenting skills. We know that financial stress causes challenges that make the problem worse."

The Oregon bill's co-sponsor, state Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, who is also a family practice doctor at OHSU, can't believe how the bill could be misunderstood.

"I wish that people would do a little more homework before they make assumptions about what something means. That article is pretty inflammatory," she said.

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