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Fifth National Summit On Quality In Home Visiting Programs

By Emily Carroll

Recently, members of the ICS team including Joe Waters, Caitlin Mauk, Emily Carroll, and (Board Member) Liz Winer, attended the Fifth National Summit on Quality in Home Visiting Programs. The Summit is the final conference in The Pew Charitable Trust’s conference series on home visiting (HV) as they are bringing their Home Visiting Campaign to a close. The conference hosted researchers from all over the world at the Marriott Marquis in Washington D.C.

Photo courteousy of Valentina Powers, used under Creative Commons license:
Photo courteousy of Valentina Powers, used under Creative Commons license:

Home visiting is a voluntary support program for new and expectant families. The participants in the programs receive advice, guidance, and other help from health, social service, and child development professionals. Through regular, planned home visits, parents learn how to improve their family’s health and provide better opportunities for their children. There are a number of home visiting program models including Nurse-Family Partnership, Parents as Teachers, and Healthy Families America to name just a few of the national models.

Several key takeaways from the conference that include:

  • Dosage and duration – What is really needed in HV programs? How long and how much are questions that must be addressed for families and within the larger HV community.
  • The importance of evidence and data collection. Researchers rallied for a “unified, sharpened federal data management system” as a way to provide clear messaging on the benefits of HV.
  • There are many HV models targeting different populations with different needs. There is a need for a universal intake assessment that would place children and families in the program that best fits their needs from the start.
  • Cultural sensitivity in HV programs is important. Each model strives for enough flexibility to accommodate all families regardless of cultural background.
  • Interventions across the life cycle are important — They shouldn’t stop after 2 or 3 years as illustrated by the two-generational or multi-generational research.
  • As we continue to research and do policy work (on home visiting and other issues), we need to keep in mind the importance of rigorously evaluating program effectiveness, better understanding how programs will positively affect individuals over time, and how home visiting fits within the broader early childhood system.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway was on the importance of language. Home visiting’s biggest PR problem is with its name. Of those who are familiar with HV programs, no one – including parents, participants, the public, or policy makers – likes the name. Pew conducted surveys and focus groups to determine what would be more effective and less pejorative. The consensus is “Family Support” or “Parent Support” provides a less judgmental, more positive association with the program. Some states have begun to move toward this new language but it will require the commitment of the larger HV community.

During the last day of the conference there was a palpable sadness in the room due to Pew’s imminent exit from the HV policy space. However, we feel that there has been incredible growth and development in the field as a result of Pew’s contributions, as well as, ample talent and leadership within HV to be able to continue successfully promoting programs and the positive outcomes associated with the intervention.

For more information on home visiting programs see:

The Pew Charitable Trusts

Institute For Child Success

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