Parent Perspectives Key to Measuring Effectiveness of Early Home Visiting

Strengthening parental capacity and promoting optimal child development are central to the early home visiting mission. How home visiting programs assess progress in these two domains, however, varies across models and populations. This inconsistency limits our ability to demonstrate the collective impact of home visiting. To address this issue, Chapin Hall reviewed dozens of standardized instruments in these areas, assessing their rigor and feasibility within the context of early home visiting.   

What We Did

Building on Phase I of the Pew Home Visiting Data for Performance Initiative, Chapin Hall identified additional indicators in two critical performance areas: parental capacity and child development.  

We conducted a review of 65 measures currently used to assess these areas. Following interviews with key experts in this area, the team summarized of the strengths and limitations of each measure. An Advisory Board comprised of researches, state home visiting program directors, and representatives from several home visiting models, reviewed the team’s analysis and made final recommendations. 

What We Found

Our research indicated that it is more productive to capture change in parents’ use of specific skills than to monitor shifts in their attitudes.  

Programs need multiple perspectives to accurately assess how parents interact with their children and create safe and nurturing environments. This means capturing the perspectives of parents and home visitors on progress made in three aspects of parental capacity:  

  • parent-child interaction 
  • parent mobilization of resources 
  • quality of the home environment 

Measuring changes in child development is complex, particularly for infants. Our evidence review indicated: 

  • For children younger than 18 months, programs should consider indirectly measuring the impact of early home visiting. This could include tracking change in a parent’s sensitivity and responsiveness, which are strong factors in predicting later healthy child development.  
  • For programs that have the opportunity to observe children beyond 18 months of age, direct measurement of a child’s early language and social-emotional development is recommended. 

What It Means

Parental capacity and child development are central to the mission of nearly all early home visiting programs.  Capturing change in these areas in a consistent manner is critical to demonstrate the impact of home visiting to policymakers. 

Capturing these domains will require additional staff training and supervision to insure data reliability and quality. Adopting common indicators in parental capacity and child development domains, along with the other recommended Pew indicators, will contribute to our understanding of how families facing various challenges respond to different home visiting interventions. 

Recommended Citation
Daro, D., Klein, S., & Burkhardt, T. (2017). The Pew Home Visiting Data for Performance Initiative: Phase II final report on parental capacity and child development indicators. Chicago, IL: Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago.
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