Voluntary home visiting programs match new and expectant parents with trained professionals who provide ongoing support during pregnancy and throughout their child’s first years of life.
Voluntary, high-quality home visiting programs positively affect birth outcomes. Research has found that mothers who received home visits were nearly half as likely to deliver low birth weight babies as those who did not receive voluntary home visits – saving up to $40,000 for each low-weight birth averted. In 2010, 34,641 babies (6.8%) were born at a low birth weight in California. Therefore, reducing this number by half could save the state over $692 million.
Home visiting programs increase children’s school-readiness and positively impact their education outcomes. Children who participated in a Healthy Families America accredited home visiting program were half as likely to repeat 1st grade (3.5% vs. 7.1%) than those who did not participate in the program. Furthermore, these children were more likely to demonstrate skills such as working cooperatively with others and following oral instructions and classroom rules – key measures of school readiness
Home visiting supports parents in learning how to promote healthy development and early learning and better prepare children for school and life. For example, home visiting programs, such as the Nurse-Family Partnership, have demonstrated a number of benefits, including:
California should expand the federally funded California Home Visiting Program, currently underway in 21 counties, so that more vulnerable young children, pregnant mothers, and new parents receive regular visits by a trained professional who provides health services, child development information and learning activities and serves as a general resource for family needs.
The California Home Visiting Program has provided more than 14,000 home visits since its creation in 2012. Likewise, 60% of Local First 5s offer home visiting programs that cover 28,000 families annually. These efforts provide a strong foundation on which universal access to home visiting programs could be built, starting with the families most in need. Unfortunately, federal support for the California Home Visiting Program is set to expire in 2015; however, there is a national effort to renew this federal funding.
A number of counties are establishing strong partnerships between local Public Health Departments, First 5s, and community-based home visiting programs. For example, Alameda County is aligning best practices and current programs into an integrated, family-centered system of care for high risk families with children, birth-to-age-3. And in Los Angeles County, a new Home Visiting Consortium is bringing together stakeholders from the county, First 5 LA, providers and advocates to promote the expansion of quality home visiting services.