The birth of a child can be a simultaneously joyous and challenging time for families. Virtually all parents will struggle with the enormous physical and emotional demands of parenting a very young child, but for too many California families those challenges are additionally compounded by poverty, housing instability, lack of social support, or domestic violence during the early years of parenthood and childhood. Such adverse circumstances can create significant strain within households, introducing stress that disrupts children’s development and increases the likelihood of short and long term unfavorable outcomes for both parents and children.
Voluntary early childhood home visiting for expectant and new parents has been shown to improve parenting practices, reduce child maltreatment, increase school readiness, reduce low-weight births, and promote family self-sufficiency. Many families can benefit from home visiting programs. However, for families with high needs or stresses, research has repeatedly shown that home visiting programs can be a strategic public investment that can also yield savings for governments, by reducing costly negative social and educational outcomes over the long and short term.
Although 65% of California children ages birth to three live in poverty or have other risk factors that indicate they could likely significantly benefit from home visiting, California home visiting programs reach only 11% of families with young children. Making voluntary home visiting widely available and accessible would help ensure that families are well-equipped to raise California’s next generation of productive, healthy, and successful adults. As home visiting is already embedded in our state’s local early childhood efforts, California has a strong foundation to move toward a more comprehensive, coordinated home visiting system.