"Before any child is harmed"
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE October 20, 2021
WHAT DO HOME VISITING PROGRAMS NEED TO CHANGE TO SUPPORT FAMILIES?
Calhoun County, MI - The Child Abuse Prevention (CAP) Endowment Fund has $10,000 in spendable funds and is requesting grant proposals from community-based organizations for projects that can connect new parents in Calhoun County to existing home visiting programs. “I’ve never met a parent who doesn’t want to do their best for their child. Most of us need a little help to make that happen. For many, that help comes from extended family or a strong support system of friends. For others, they may need a little more. That’s where home visitors come in” states Kathy Szenda Wilson, Co-Executive Director of BC Pulse, who also works with local early childhood providers.
Fewer emergency department visits for infants, less food insecurity, and lower rates of maternal depression are just a few of the positive outcomes that research has shown can result from home visits. (Sandstrom, H. , 2019) “Family and children advocates have worked hard over the past 30 years to develop home visiting programs, but the last link needed seems to be how to connect to families. Families need to feel comfortable inviting someone into their home and feel safe talking about how they are doing and with what they might need help. We all need help as new parents.” says Rita McPhail, CAP Fund President and parent of two daughters. The CAP Fund is looking to the community for answers to the questions: What do families need to feel comfortable working with a home visitor? What do home visiting programs need to change to be able to engage families successfully so both parents and children benefit
s from services?
A recently retired Early Childhood Education teacher (Three- and Four-year-old programs) reflected that she can always tell which children in her classroom had home visits. “They are more social, curious and display high social/emotional intelligence compared to other students. They have more experience with books, writing their names, and know more numbers and letters. They are also better at self-care such as feeding themselves and dressing. These children do better in the classroom because they have better impulse control so they can pay attention and wait for their turn. They are really off to a great start because their parents have had that extra support.”
The Early Childhood Connections (ECC) program, administered by the Calhoun Intermediate School District, would like to connect more families to local early childhood services and programs including home visiting programs. ECC receives referrals from partnering agencies for pregnant women and families with new babies that might be experiencing challenges in addition to the normal stress of being a new parent. Home Visitors or Family Coaches complete a series of three Welcome Baby Early Learning Visits (virtual or in-person) with the families who voluntarily agree to participate. In these visits the Coaches provide new and expectant parents with information, support, and referrals to community resources and services, promote good maternal and child health, home safety, food security, and positive parenting. They also invite caregivers/parents to participate in additional ECC home visits and playgroups.
Over the past 3 years, ECC has received over 800 referrals from various agencies and completed just over 650 of these initial visits with families who agreed to a visit. That means it is reaching 81% of families for whom it receives a referral, but only 28% of the families who agree to initial visits choose to continue with ongoing home visiting services. Additionally, there are +/- 1400 live births a year in Calhoun County, 40% of whom are single mothers. ECC is only reaching 39% of these single mothers who often are at highest risk of living in poverty and experiencing additional stressors. All of the local providers of early childhood services would like to see this number increase and see more families take advantage of community resources.
When home visitors work with families the results can be powerful. The National Conference of State Legislatures reported in November 2019 that “Rigorous evaluation of high-quality home visiting programs has shown, improvement in birth outcomes such as decreased pre-term births and low-birthweight babies, positive impact on reducing incidences of child abuse and neglect, 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.” (NCSL.org)
If your organization has an idea for more successfully connecting families to early childhood services and programs, especially home visiting programs, the CAP Fund is interested in your ideas. Applications will be due January 1, 2022. Contact Rita McPhail with questions or to request a grant application at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sources: Sandstrom, H. (2019, April 25). Early Childhood Home Visiting Programs and Health. In Health Affairs. Retrieved October 15, 2021, from https://www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/hpb20190321.382895/full/
An example of a handout given to parents during a home visit about how important PLAY is for childre