September 24, 2016

Coaching poor new parents works

Talk Poverty - LNationwide, more than 1 out of every 5 infants and toddlers lives in poverty. For children of color, the numbers are even worse: 30% of Hispanic children, and nearly 40% of African American children under the age of four live in poverty.

This has serious consequences, both for the individual children and for the country as a whole. The infant and toddler years are a critical time period for child development, and they can shape a person’s outcomes for the rest of their lives....

Home visiting programs, which connect families with trained professionals who help create healthy and safe home environments, are proven to directly address many of the harmful impacts of poverty before the effects take hold. The benefits are dramatic—families who voluntarily participate in these programs have improved child and maternal health, increased school readiness, prevented child abuse and neglect, and reduced participation in the juvenile justice system.

Here’s how it works:

When parents bring their baby home from the hospital, they don’t come with a handbook. Home visiting aims to be the next best thing, by connecting parents and families with professionals—who may be nurses, social workers, or other trained parent educators—in their own homes through regular visits. Home visitors partner with parents to develop strong parenting skills, ensure child and family safety, and access other community resources and social services.

The services families receive during a home visit can vary depending on the specific needs of the family. A home visitor may work with a new mom to help her understand the importance of breastfeeding, or how praising a child can reinforce positive behavior. They may screen for signs of child abuse and neglect or domestic violence, and refer families to other health and social services. Home visitors will also help parents to set goals for the future—they might work together to develop a plan to go back to school, look for a job, or identify safe and reliable child care. The results are impressive

Home visiting programs have been proven to benefit everything from child and maternal health, to increasing school readiness, to reducing child abuse and neglect. In 2014, 70% of federal home visiting program grantees saw reductions in the rate of tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drug use among enrolled mothers.  Similarly, 79% of grantees saw an increase in the household income of families participating in home visiting, and 76% saw an increase the rate at which women and families are screened for domestic violence.

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