June 2005Vol. 6, No. 5Home Visiting Program Shows Significant Effects in First Year
Families with infants at risk for abuse or neglect who received home visitors as part of the Healthy Families New York program showed positive effects in parenting, child health and development, and parental life course development. The impact of this home visiting program was apparent at the 1-year evaluation, according to a recent report by the Center for Human Services Research at the University of Albany.
While home visiting programs are widely used throughout the country as a prevention strategy for child abuse and neglect, their results have been mixed. The evaluation of the Healthy Families New York program was designed to provide data on the Healthy Families model, using rigorous randomized design methodology that compared 1,157 eligible families assigned to intervention or control groups. Families in the intervention group were enrolled in established Healthy Families programs in one of three locations in New York. Most were enrolled before the target child was born.
During the first enrollment year, intervention families received home visits from specially trained paraprofessionals who lived in the community. These visits were designed to:
- Provide education on newborn care, child growth and development, and childrearing
- Promote parent-child bonding
- Promote and support positive prenatal care
- Coordinate access to health and community resources
- Establish goals with the family
- Address family issues
Compared to the control group, families in the intervention group reported having engaged in fewer acts of abuse and neglect of their children, although there were no significant differences between the groups in the percentages of parents with substantiated CPS reports. Parents in the program delivered significantly fewer babies with low birth weights and were more likely to have health insurance for their children than were control parents. In addition, the program was able to assist some parents in reducing depression and use of alcohol, tobacco, and drugs.
Recommendations are made to continue the Healthy Families New York program with certain modifications. These modifications include:
- Ongoing screening for domestic violence, depression, and substance abuse
- Training for home visitors in discussing sensitive issues and motivating parents for change
- Strong partnerships with local agencies that provide services for domestic violence, mental health issues, and substance abuse
- Expansion of recruitment to reach more women in the early stages of pregnancy
- Training for parents on employment readiness and motivation to work
The full report, Evaluation of Healthy Families New York (HFNY): First Year Program Impacts, is available online at http://ocfs.ny.gov/main/reports/HFNY_FirstYearProgramImpacts.pdf (PDF 469 KB).
More information about home visiting is available on the Home Visit Forum, a website supported by a consortium of administrators, practitioners, and researchers representing six nationally based programs: Early Head Start, Healthy Families America, Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters, the Nurse-Family Partnership, Parents As Teachers, and the Parent-Child Home Program. The website offers information about research and collaborative home visiting projects. For more information, visit http://www.hfrp.org/other-research-areas/home-visit-forum-completed-project.
In addition, Children's Bureau Express has covered the topic of home visiting in previous issues:
- "Home Visiting Study Prompts Changes" (September 2004)
- "Time Spent in Home Visits Related to Personality Traits of Mothers and Staff" (December 2003/January 2004)
- "Home Visiting Programs Help Reduce Child Maltreatment" (April 2003)
- "Home Visitation Measured as a Way to Prevent Child Abuse" (November 2000)