What is Home Visiting?
Home visiting programs recognize parents are children’s first teachers, but sometimes even parents need help. Far too many of Pennsylvania’s youngest children are at risk of child abuse and neglect, live in poverty and experience poor education and health outcomes. Home visiting programs help parents and others raising children with the support necessary to improve health, safety, literacy and economic security of the family. In home visits, nurses and other trained professionals visit with women, families and children as early as the beginning of pregnancy to promote positive birth outcomes and provide parent education and support, ultimately promoting child health, well-being, learning and development.
Pennsylvania uses a combination of state and federal funds to support evidence-based home visiting. Programs are managed by the Department of Human Services, Office of Child Development and Early Learning.
Four evidence-based home visiting models have been operating in Pennsylvania for several years using public and private funds to support their programs. They include:
- Early Head Start (EHS) – Enhances the ability of low income families to meet the developmental and early learning needs of their children at home.
- Healthy Families America (HFA) – Strengthens families by promoting positive parenting, enhancing child health and development, and preventing child abuse and neglect.
- Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) – Pairs first-time, low-income pregnant women with nurses to improve pregnancy/birth outcomes, child health and development, and family economic self-sufficiency.
- Parents as Teachers (PAT) – Builds the capacity of parents to care for their children, while promoting school readiness and healthy child development.
See What People are Saying About Home Visiting
”There’s no magic bullet to changing the adverse circumstances far too many of our children live in. More and more children are being born to parents suffering from substance use disorders or living in families that are just struggling to make ends meet. Home visiting programs provide families with the supports, skills and confidence they need to be successful. Families benefiting from these programs are better equipped to provide a home environment that is conducive to the child’s healthy and safe development.“
Lee Sizemore, Director of Human Services for McKean County
”I was recommended to sign up with Nurse Family Partnership and was told that a nurse would be helping me until my child was two. Kendra was chosen to be my nurse, and almost right away, she began explaining each month of my pregnancy to myself and my husband at the time, and we felt very comfortable with the information she provided.“
Mother who benefited from home visiting services with Nurse Family Partnership
”Ask any district attorney what cases they remember and continue to haunt them, and you will likely hear a story about child abuse. Last year, more than 5,000 children in Pennsylvania were placed in foster care because of parental substance abuse. These numbers are going up each year, in part, because of the opioid crisis. We can’t simply police or prosecute our way to safe families and communities. We need to do more to support families that are struggling to raise their children, even when they may be fighting substance use disorders.“
Matthew D. Weintraub, Bucks County District Attorney
”A mother’s physical, emotional and mental health prior to pregnancy and birth play a crucial role in determining the outcome of a pregnancy and that child’s subsequent development. For young mothers, evidence-based home visiting can help ensure they get the proper care they need. In home visits, nurses and other trained professionals engage with a pregnant woman or mother, as well as her partner and other family members, educating them on the importance of regular well-child visits and helping parents to understand the important role that they themselves play in their child’s development.“
Dr. Robert Cicco, Pittsburgh Neonatologist, Allegheny County Medical Society President and the former President of the PA Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
”As law enforcement officials, my colleagues and I are certainly tough on crime, but we also know that we can’t arrest and prosecute our way out of the crime problem. We need to be proactive and help at-risk families and children with proven supports. Much of what we deal with every day can be traced to inadequate parenting and home lives. I’m certainly not making excuses for those who commit crimes, but these are certainly factors that lead to poor choices with consequences that can forever change their lives and the lives of their victims and loved ones.“
Craig Stedman, Lancaster County District Attorney
”The research is clear: Home visiting services can reap strong rewards, and that's why we must increase public funding to support these programs. Ask anyone who has ever been a parent and you will hear that parenting is the most rewarding, but also the most challenging job he or she ever had. Many parents benefit from strong family supports and adequate resources. However, for some parents, especially those who are young and of modest means, parenthood is more complicated. Home visiting helps by reducing child abuse and neglect and improving family health, education and economic security.“
Joan Benso, President and CEO, Pa Partnerships for Children
”As a working parent with young children, the enormous responsibility, mental load, and physical exhaustion are very real. While I am fortunate to have a support network, I am also aware that many families face additional challenges such as poverty, mental health diagnoses, and substance abuse. Evidenced-based home visiting provides an opportunity for parents to learn from a trained and knowledgeable family coach who can support the health and well-being of the caregiver and child. The research is clear that investing in families during this critical time of early childhood reaps returns for future generations.“
Lissa Geiger Shulman, Public Policy Director, Trying Together
”I like that my home visitor is so in tune and honest and straight forward. She encourages me and listens to my concerns. I can be me and not worry about being judged.“
Capital Area Head Start parent
”Children don't arrive with instruction manuals, but parents can learn to be confident in their child rearing practices with the support of family, friends and community services. Pennsylvania's 55 Parents as Teachers (PAT) home visiting programs work closely with families to build trusting relationships that address critical parenting behaviors and promote protective factors that support optimal child development. Many PAT families are young parents, face poverty and/or have other challenges that the certified parent educators help them navigate. Parents as Teachers, a family-centered, results-driven approach is a cost-effective solution for families in Pennsylvania.“
Karen Shanoski, M.Mgt. Partnerships Project Manager PA Parents as Teachers State Office
Does Home Visiting Work?
Evidence-based home visiting is a research-proven tool to support the development and safety of our most vulnerable children and their families.
The term “evidence-based” refers to home visiting models whose services are proven effective by research with evidence that supports a child’s healthy development. Information related to each home visiting model’s evidence has been evaluated and documented within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Home Visiting Evidence of Effectiveness (HOMVEE) review at http://homvee.acf.hhs.gov.
Research of evidence-based home visiting models has shown remarkable program-specific outcomes across many disciplines – promoting child development and school readiness; improving maternal and child health; reducing child abuse and neglect; and supporting family economic self-sufficiency, to name a few. Not only do evidence-based home visiting programs benefit the families and communities they serve, but they are also a smart public investment. For example, RAND found Nurse-Family Partnership returns as much as $5.70 for every tax dollar spent from reduced spending for health care and other human services when serving high-risk populations.
What is Childhood Begins at Home?
Childhood Begins at Home is a statewide campaign designed to help policymakers and the public understand the value of evidence-based home visiting and effective ways to support parents. The campaign partners include:
Campaign partners are encouraging state and federal lawmakers to continue to build on the strong investments they have made in evidence-based home visiting and increase investment to serve many more Pennsylvania children and families who would benefit.