Research proves that high-quality home visiting programs — in which trained professionals meet regularly with families with young children or expecting mothers in their homes to provide information and support — can improve child health and development, enhance parents’ abilities to support their child’s overall development, increase children’s school readiness and even improve family economic self-sufficiency.
Last week, the Office of the District of Columbia Auditor released the first-ever comprehensive report on home visiting in the District of Columbia (“Status Report on Home Visiting in the District of Columbia (HVSR)”). Our partner DC Action for Children completed this report on behalf of the Auditor to provide a high-level overview of the local home visiting landscape — providing context about which models exist in the District, what they entail, where they are implemented and how these programs are funded.
This report highlighted the strengths of home visiting in the District, which include:
- The Home Visiting Council’s focus on building a home visiting infrastructure, supporting and implementing high-quality programs for low-income and/or at-risk families
- The strategic use of current funding to target and support high-need families
- The availability of multiple home visiting program modelsin each ward, increasing opportunities for families to access these supports wherever they may live
Additionally, the report identified a major challenge: not enough slots.
Based on feedback from local experts and analysis of risk factor data for families with young children — including family poverty, prenatal care utilization, and child developmental delays — we estimated that about 6,300 D.C. households with children aged five years and under could benefit from home visiting programs. In FY 2015, home visiting programs in D.C. had the capacity to serve roughly one-fifth of this need, with slots to serve 1,321 families.
Other challenges include difficulty hiring and retaining qualified home visitors; insufficient local funding and at-risk federal funding; and challenges conducting cross-program evaluation due to inconsistent reporting requirements across the District. The DC Home Visiting Council, led by DC Action for Children and made up of 30 member organizations, brings together the leadership from the Department of Health along with providers and advocates to address these challenges — and I’m supporting these efforts as the Home Visiting Policy Fellow for the Bainum Family Foundation.
The proven impact of these programs is why the Foundation supports sustainable home visiting in the District through strategic partnerships and capacity-building investments — so families don’t need to go it alone with one of life’s most important responsibilities: parenting.