What Is Pregnancy Support Home Visiting?
Home visiting is a prevention strategy used to support pregnant moms and new parents to promote infant and child health, foster educational development and school readiness, and help prevent child abuse and neglect. Across the country, high-quality home visiting programs offer vital support to parents as they deal with the challenges of raising babies and young children. Participation in these programs is voluntary and families may choose to opt out whenever they want. Home visitors may be trained nurses, social workers or child development specialists. Their visits focus on linking pregnant women with prenatal care, promoting strong parent-child attachment, and coaching parents on learning activities that foster their child’s development and supporting parents’ role as their child’s first and most important teacher. Home visitors also conduct regular screenings to help parents identify possible health and developmental issues.
Legislators can play an important role in establishing effective home visiting policy in their states through legislation that can ensure that the state is investing in evidence-based home visiting models that demonstrate effectiveness, ensure accountability and address quality improvement measures. State legislation can also address home visiting as a critical component in states’ comprehensive early childhood systems.
What Does the Research Say?
Decades of research in neurobiology underscores the importance of children’s early experiences in laying the foundation for their growing brains. The quality of these early experiences shape brain development which impacts future social, cognitive and emotional competence. This research points to the value of parenting during a child’s early years. High-quality home visiting programs can improve outcomes for children and families, particularly those that face added challenges such as teen or single parenthood, maternal depression and lack of social and financial supports.
Rigorous evaluation of high-quality home visiting programs has also shown positive impact on reducing incidences of child abuse and neglect, improvement in birth outcomes such as decreased pre-term births and low-birthweight babies, improved school readiness for children and increased high school graduation rates for mothers participating in the program. Cost-benefit analyses show that high quality home visiting programs offer returns on investment ranging from $1.75 to $5.70 for every dollar spent due to reduced costs of child protection, K-12 special education and grade retention, and criminal justice expenses.