Intensive Home Visits Strengthen Families

Garden City, New York (November 12, 2010) — A recently published study1 of home visiting programs for at-risk families finds that home visiting improves the lives of children and families. The study is yet another very encouraging piece of evidence that validates the effectiveness of home visiting as a service delivery method for programs that focus on strengthening families and improving school readiness. The study, published in the Infant Mental Health Journal, was conducted by researchers from the University of North Texas and Michigan State University. The lead researcher, Dr. Angela Nievar, is a Professor of Development and Family Studies in the Department of Educational Psychology at UNT. The release of this study is timely given the pending substantial infusion of federal funding for home visitation programs as a result of the adoption of the Affordable Care Act’s Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program.

The study is a meta-analysis of home visiting programs that target high-risk families. A unique characteristic of this study is that it only included programs serving at-risk families. In addition, the study focused on the intensity/frequency of home visitation programs; and excluded program evaluations with weak research designs (e.g. pre/post study designs). The authors specifically examined differences in the effects of 32 home visiting interventions on maternal behavior. On average, they found that programs with more frequent visitation had higher success rates. Nievar and colleagues write, “Program effectiveness is largely dependent on the intensity or frequency of services… Programs with more frequent home visitation were likely to show more improvement in maternal behavior.” The researchers also concluded that home visitation programs which use nurses or mental health professionals as service providers were not significantly more effective than were programs using paraprofessionals. The researchers write, “We found that home visiting for low-income families does work regardless of the use of nurses or paraprofessionals…”

The Parent-Child Home Program is one of the 32 programs included in the analysis. The findings validate the theory and programmatic structure of The Parent-Child Home Program as well as its outcomes. Parent-Child Home Program research has consistently demonstrated that parents who participate in the Program experience, from pre- to post-program participation, an increase in warm, responsive, and consistent interactions with their children. Sharmeela Mediratta, director of Early Childhood Programs at SCO Family of Service, an agency currently implementing the Parent-Child Home Program in Queens and Brooklyn, said the study “confirms what we have always suspected, intensive home visits provide a level of support to at-risk parents that is otherwise unavailable to them. Frequency and length of time really matter.”

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1. Nievar, A., M., Van Egeren, L., A., & Pollard, S. (2010). A Meta-analysis of Home Visiting Programs: Moderators of improvement in maternal behaviors. Infant Mental Health Journal, 31(5), 499-520.