• February 2020
  • Vol. 21, No. 1

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Developing a Learning Agenda to Help States Evaluate Home Visiting Programs

The Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE) within the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has issued a new evaluation brief to help states design options for assessing the impact of their home visiting programs in multiple settings. The Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECVH) learning agenda provides activities for state-led evaluations of MIECHV programs, including performance measurement, continuous quality improvement, systematic reviews, descriptive research, and implementation and impact assessments.

The federal MIECHV program, administered by ACF's Health Resources and Services Administration, supports voluntary, evidence-based home visiting services for at-risk pregnant women and parents with young children. It also encourages states to develop their own learning agendas to ensure they are using the best available evidence to improve state-run program performance.

The OPRE brief describes the learning agenda as a strategic approach for states to develop a portfolio of evidence about the implementation and impacts of MIECHV to help guide decision-making in multiple contexts and settings. Such an approach provides an opportunity for "a continual and evolving" learning process, OPRE explains. According to the brief, a learning agenda typically features questions that identify existing knowledge gaps, research and evaluation activities designed to answer those questions, and materials that are developed and disseminated to increase the usefulness of the related findings. The goal is to improve state MIECHV program efficiency and effectiveness and build a broader home visiting knowledge base.

In addition to identifying knowledge gaps and using evidence to guide decisions, OPRE identifies the following benefits of developing a learning agenda: building a continuum of evidence, encouraging efficient use of resources, reinforcing strategy and policy, supporting organizational change through data-informed decision-making, and encouraging adaptive management. OPRE recommends states take the following actions to develop a learning agenda:

  • Engage stakeholders
  • Develop a theory of change
  • Identify the relevant learning priorities
  • Generate high-level learning questions
  • Work with evaluators to "crosswalk" learning questions with potential activities (i.e., which types of activities can address the questions, and what data are needed?)
  • Align the data collection
  • Prioritize and sequence the learning activities
  • Develop and disseminate learning materials (e.g., reports, media, events)

Developing a State Learning Agenda: The Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Visiting Program is available at https://www.acf.hhs.gov/opre/resource/developing-state-learning-agenda-maternal-infant-early-childhood-home-visiting-program.


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