• February 2020
  • Vol. 21, No. 1

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Home Visitation as a Promising Intervention for Child Welfare-Involved Families

Early childhood home visiting programs have been shown to be effective in preventing child maltreatment and improving birth outcomes, child health and development, maternal health and life course development, and parenting practices. Most evaluations of these programs, however, have focused on young, first-time mothers and have mostly underrepresented families with prior or current substantiated reports of child maltreatment.

A recent study in Child Abuse & Neglect discusses the long-term maltreatment outcomes of Healthy Families New York (HFNY), an evidence-based home visiting program targeting high-risk families from communities with high rates of teen pregnancy, babies with low birth weights, infant mortality, Medicaid births, and mothers with late or no prenatal care. The prospective study, which is conducted through a randomized controlled trial, focuses on a subgroup of mothers with at least one substantiated report of maltreatment and the program's impact on preventing the recurrence of child maltreatment in this population.

Participants in the study were interviewed in their homes by trained interviewers not affiliated with the HFNY program. Study measures included sociodemographic variables such as the mother's race/ethnicity, age, and educational attainment; whether a partner was present; risk factors such as mental health issues; use of public assistance; and child maltreatment outcomes such as information regarding investigations and initiation of family support services.

The study found that the recurrence of maltreatment over time was consistently reduced for mothers who participated in home visiting programs compared with mothers who did not. Mothers in the HFNY program, for example, were involved in fewer subsequent indicated child protective services reports than mothers in the control group at the 7-year follow-up. The study also found that participation in the HFNY program resulted in a significantly lower rate of needing family support services to prevent foster care placement for the children of mothers involved with child protective services. 

Researchers recommend that mothers who are involved with child protective services participate in home visiting and that child welfare agencies should collaborate with home visiting programs as not only a prevention strategy but also as a support to families already involved with child welfare.

"Reducing maltreatment recurrence through home visitation: A promising intervention for child welfare involved families," by Eunju Leea, Kristen Kirkland, Claudia Miranda-Julian, and Rose Greene (Child Abuse & Neglect, 86), is available at https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0145213418303673.


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