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August 2012Vol. 13, No. 7Evaluating Home Visiting in Illinois

Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago recently released its second annual evaluation of Strong Foundations, the Illinois statewide home visiting program to reduce child maltreatment rates and improve health and well-being outcomes for families with young children. Strong Foundations is a joint effort of the Illinois Departments of Human Services and Child and Family Services, the State Board of Education, and the State Early Learning Council's Home Visiting Task Force; it is 1 of 17 grantees receiving funding through the Children's Bureau's Evidence-Based Home Visiting 5-year grant program. The report discusses areas in which Strong Foundations is making progress and identifies opportunities for improvement as the initiative continues its implementation efforts during the next 3 years.

As its name implies, Strong Foundations' focus is building a strong statewide home visiting infrastructure with the coordination and administrative support communities need to deliver high-quality services to families at the local level with fidelity to the evidence-based home visiting model of their choice. The Strong Foundations system is focused on addressing governance, funding, monitoring and quality assurance, and training and technical assistance. Communities are implementing either Parents as Teachers, Healthy Families America, or the Nurse-Family Partnership model, depending on the needs of the children and families they serve.

The second annual report is based on a process evaluation of State and local implementation that included interviews and surveys of staff and an analysis of administrative data. Researchers determined several areas in which Strong Foundations is performing well, such as State-level collaboration and involvement of partners as well as staff development forums, in which 12 trainings were conducted statewide to help more than 200 home visitors improve casework practice around family risk factors. However, the report also recommends several ways in which Strong Foundations can improve:

  • Despite strong communication among State-level partners, the initiative should increase opportunities for communication between management and frontline staff and families, particularly around decision-making for funding and programmatic changes.
  • Local systems development efforts should strive to expand collaborations with health, mental health, and early care and education systems.
  • To improve monitoring and quality assurance, the initiative should strengthen its systems for collecting and sharing data by identifying common data elements to gather across programs and encouraging coordination of services for families involved with multiple systems.
  • Trainings should address more casework practice topics and a "train the trainers" technique should be used to increase learning opportunities; training sessions should also be tailored to meet the unique needs of supervisors versus frontline staff.
  • To minimize the impact of State-level budget changes or cuts, funding streams should be more flexible and resilient by emphasizing long-term budget planning.

The full report, "Building a System of Support for Evidence-Based Home Visiting Programs in Illinois: Findings from Year 2 of the Strong Foundations Evaluation," was written by J. Spielberger, E. Gitlow, C. Winje, A. Harden, K. Dadisman, and A. Banman, and is available to download on the Chapin Hall website: