Challenges, Benefits Found in Providing Home Visiting Services for Pregnant and Parenting Foster Youth

In 2015, the Illinois Home Visiting Task Force established a subcommittee to design and implement a pilot program to connect pregnant or parenting youth in foster care with home visiting services. A major goal of the pilot is to promote collaboration between the home visiting and the child welfare systems. Preliminary results from an evaluation of the pilot point to both the ongoing challenges and benefits associated with providing home visiting services to pregnant or parenting youth in foster care.

What We Did

Nine Health Families Illinois (HFI) programs participated in the pilot. The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services contracted with Chapin Hall to evaluate the program.

We examined the home visiting services that youth enrolled in the pilot receive, assessed fidelity to the HFI model, and identified barriers to implementation. We also measured parent-, child- and system-level outcomes.

The evaluation used three types of data:

  • Program data: Home visitors and doulas enter data about each completed and missed home visit into a web-based data collection tool.
  • Interview Data: Semi-structured interviews are conducted with home visitors, doulas, home visiting supervisors and pilot participants.
  • Administrative Data: DCFS administrative data are used to examine the demographic characteristics and placement histories of pilot participants and to track child welfare services involvement among their children.

What We Found

By the end of May 2018, a total of 38 participants were enrolled in the pilot. Between November 2016 and April 2018, home visitors and doulas completed 562 visits with pilot participants.

Some participants experienced multiple placement changes or disruptions due to running away, detentions or hospitalizations since they enrolled in the pilot. Providing services to these participants was a challenge, especially since home visitors and doulas are often unaware that these placement changes or disruptions have occurred. Providing services to pilot participants in congregate care was also a challenge due in part to provider rules about when and where visits can take place.

Collaboration between HFI programs and caseworkers was inconsistent. Home visitors and doulas reported struggling with what the nature of that collaboration should be. Pilot participants often lacked a natural support system and needed more support than the clients HFI programs typically serve. Pilot participants reported trusting their home visitors and doula and turning to them for parenting and relationship advice, child development information, and in some cases, advocacy with DCFS.

What It Means

Providing home visiting services to this population presents significant challenges due to frequent placement changes among the pregnant and parenting youth, their high level of need, and child welfare agency policies and practices. At the same time, pregnant and parenting youth reported benefitting from learning about their child’s development and from their relationships with their home visitors, who are a stabilizing presence in their lives. It is possible for home visiting programs to serve this high-risk population, but it requires an intensive amount of coordination between home visiting programs and the child welfare system.

Recommended Citation
Dworsky, A., Gitlow, E. & Ethier, K. (2018). Evaluation of the Home Visiting Pilot for Pregnant and Parenting Youth in Care: FY 2018 Preliminary Report. Chicago: Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago.


Home Visiting Preliminary Report FY 2018