Improving Child Outcomes through Home Visiting

For decades, home visiting programs have supported parents of young children to increase healthy behaviors, improve parent-child interactions, and promote early literacy. These programs offer hands-on parent education and coaching by bringing trained professionals and paraprofessionals directly to families’ homes. Now, more and more home visiting programs are also actively addressing social determinants of health, such as employment and personal finance.

As Education Dive recently chronicled, First 5 Commissions across California are investing in home visiting programs as a strategy for encouraging healthy development among children ages 0-5. First 5 San Joaquin (F5SJ), for example, began funding home visiting in 2001, and Harder+Company has been supporting evaluation of these programs since that time.

In 2015-2016, F5SJ and the San Joaquin County Human Services Agency partnered to pilot a home visiting program designed specifically for families participating in CalWORKs, California’s public assistance program. Home visitors for the CalWORKs Helping to Enhance Parents’ Potential (CalHEPP) program integrated job readiness and job search coaching into their visits to complement employment resources that families receive through CalWORKs. This approach retains the benefits of traditional home visiting models, while providing additional supports that help parents achieve financial stability and strengthen their ability to provide a safe, nurturing environment for their children.

Building Job Skills, Supporting Child Development

We documented CalHEPP’s pilot year of implementation and its impact on participating families. Key benefits for families included:

  • Increased employment. Over half of participating parents (57 percent) reported new earnings from employment by the end of the fiscal year. Thirty percent of families were earning enough from new employment that they were no longer receiving cash aid. Among similar families who did not participate in CalHEPP, only 16 percent were earning enough to exit CalWORKs.
  • Improved job readiness. The majority of parents were more confident in their job readiness skills. Before the program, only half of parents had an up-to-date resume (52 percent) or felt they had the support and resources to meet job expectations (55 percent). After participation, these numbers rose to over 80 percent.
  • Stronger knowledge of child health and development. Like other home visiting programs, CalHEPP home visitors continued to focus on child health and development with parents. After program participation, CalHEPP families reported reading to their children more frequently and having more books in their home. As one participant shared, “CalHEPP helped me to become full-time [employed] and manage ways to still spend [time] with my child.”

Sharing Best Practices

A new initiative from the California Department of Social Services will expand home visiting for CalWORKs families to counties across the state in early 2019. These new programs can benefit from lessons learned by CalHEPP’s partners on how to establish successful collaboration between CalWORKs agencies and existing home visiting programs:

  • Ensure regular communication between CalWORKs and home visiting staff. In addition to a home visitor, families who participate in these programs may already have a CalWORKs case manager. Having open lines of communication between home visitors and CalWORKs staff helps coordinate support for families. CalHEPP found it most helpful to have CalWORKs and home visiting staff located in the same place. Routine meetings—as well as opportunities to connect as-needed about individual cases—can also strengthen this collaborative case management approach.
  • Allow flexibility for participants’ schedules. CalHEPP home visitors added flexibility to their hours to accommodate participants’ schedules. In addition, they were willing to offer visits at locations outside the home, such as parks and libraries, to better meet the needs of CalWORKs participants. Considering these types of adjustments can be useful for helping participants to participate regularly.
  • Ensure that home visitors and CalWORKs case managers receive complementary training. Familiarity with CalHEPP’s curriculum and benefits helped CalWORKs case managers better explain the program to potential participants. And, knowing more about CalWORKs helped CalHEPP home visitors to communicate with case managers and families. Training for both groups ensures that skills are complementary, and that all staff are better equipped to support each other’s work.

Moving Forward

The collaboration between F5SJ, the San Joaquin Human Services Agency, and other funded agencies shows how cross-agency approaches can more fully respond to a whole family’s needs through the leveraging of existing resources. These efforts show that planning and regularly assessing the implementation of a new program can help agencies work together toward shared goals. We are eager to continue our partnership with F5SJ to document outcomes and share best practices from its new state-funded CalWORKs home visiting project, FamilyWORKs (Family Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids) program. This program will build upon the successes of CalHEPP’s home visiting program and expands its reach in order to better address the underlying causes of health disparities.

To learn more about First 5 San Joaquin and their programs and initiatives, click here.