Home visiting programs are one of the most widespread family interventions. However, not a lot is known about how effective they are scaled up to the population level in the real world.
- The Families First Home Visiting program is linked with reduced child maltreatment.
- The program is not linked to improved child development.
What is the research about?
Home visiting programs can decrease child maltreatment and improve child development. Unfortunately, these results are inconsistent across programs.
In Manitoba, the Families First Home Visiting program helps at-risk families during pregnancy and until children are 5. The program consists of support from public health nurses and paraprofessional home visitors. The program focuses on parent-child relationships, healthy child development, and connecting families with services. The program increases positive parenting, parental well-being, and a sense of belonging.
University of Manitoba researchers studied whether the program can reduce child maltreatment and improve child development.
What did the researchers do?
Researchers linked health, social services, and education data for children born between 2003 and 2009 who were eligible for the program. The sample consisted of 1,491 children in the program and 1,688 children who were not in the program. Researchers measured child development with the Early Development Instrument (EDI).
What did the researchers find?
At age 1, the probability of children in the program being taken into child welfare care was 7% compared to 10% for children who were not in the program. This result was similar at age 2 and 3.
The probability of injuries related to child maltreatment for children in the program was 0.5% and 0.9% for children who were not in the program.
The probability of being vulnerable on the EDI did not differ between the children in the program and children who were not in the program.
In this study, the probability of being developmentally vulnerable in each EDI domain was between 19% and 26%. These rates are higher than in Manitoba overall, which are between 10% and 13%.
What does this research mean?
The Families First Home Visiting program could help reduce maltreatment by supporting families before child welfare is needed.
Also, because the study sample had higher EDI vulnerability than the general population it supports enhancing the home visit curriculum. Connecting families to early learning centres could also improve child development.