Building a System of Support for Evidence-Based Home Visiting in Illinois
Illinois received federal funding to study its infrastructure to support evidence-based home visiting programs for the prevention of child maltreatment. Chapin Hall researchers published a series of reports looking at the state’s Strong Foundations initiative, a public-private partnership to enhance the state infrastructure that supports close to 200 evidence-based home visiting programs in Illinois.
What We Did
We conducted annual interviews of program supervisors and directors in 15 local programs, and in 2012 and 2013, a structured survey of collaboration among agency directors. In those 15 programs, we also surveyed and held focus groups with home visitors. We analyzed administrative data of those same programs and data from Healthy Families Illinois and Parents as Teachers.
We also observed selected meetings of the Home Visiting Task Force and conducted reviews of meeting minutes and other project materials.
What We Found
The infrastructure that supports home visiting programs in Illinois grew in several areas, particularly:
- Leadership and governance
- State-level collaboration and partnerships
- Professional development and training
A number of factors affected the effectiveness of the system:
- The challenging nature of developing common monitoring and reporting requirements across program models
- The difficulty of coordinating social services
- The larger political, social, and economic context — for example, inconsistent funding
The state system was able to be flexible and resilient in responding to both economic challenges and new resources.
What It Means
The Strong Foundations initiative helped make home visiting an integral part of Illinois’ early childhood system. The initiative also enabled the home visiting system to better respond to funding and other resource challenges.
As Strong Foundations integrated with the Maternal Infant Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program, stakeholders recognized that Strong Foundations provided the initial supports needed to implement many aspects of MIECHV. In the words of one informant, “the additional years of [Strong Foundations] provided us with the foundation to run with MIECHV and I’m not sure that had we not had [Strong Foundations] initially that we would be where we’re at right now with MIECHV.”
It is important to monitor trends in services over time to see how the system experiences and responds to fluctuations in services, like those around the time of the 2010 fiscal crisis in Illinois. The state needs more integrated data on key indicators of quality and family characteristics to monitor trends comprehensively.