Parents are an infant’s first teachers, with the capacity to accelerate their healthy brain development. In our community, over half of children are born into families confronting economic hardship, social isolation, and crime – risk factors that jeopardize their capacity to provide social, emotional and cognitive nourishment to their newborns. Home visiting programs can provide some protection against these risks, particularly when they are part of a wholistic system of support.
At-risk children and families that receive high-quality home visiting assistance fare better on a number of dimensions of development, school achievement, and lifetime well-being. Families served by the Nurse Family Partnership Program, for example, are more likely to escape poverty, and children in families that have received this intervention are less likely to be victims of abuse, to be held back in school, or to become teen parents.
Investing in high quality home visiting is a smart community development investment.
- At least eight home visiting programs are currently operating in Shelby County, serving as many as 1,400 children and families (TUCI, 2006). Two of these programs (Healthy Families and Parents as Teachers) have been evaluated and are considered proven or promising (Promising Practices Network). Combined, these two programs have a capacity of 272 children and families.
- Early Head Start, a federally-funded and research-supported early childhood program that includes a home visiting component, is currently serving 95 local children (Warr, 2009), less than 1% of the eligible Shelby County population.
Policy Suggestions (Zero to Three, 2009):
- Guarantee that services provided through home visiting are culturally and linguistically sensitive.
- Merge home visiting programs into an extended community early childhood system and framework, and reiterate coordination among home visiting services.
- Promote precise, continuous evaluation and extended improvement efforts for home visiting programs.
The Urban Child Institute. (2006). Complete Home Visitation Matrix. Memphis, TN: The Urban Child Institute.
Warr, M. (personal communication, May 12, 2009)
Zero to Three. (2009). Early Experiences Matter Policy Guide. Washington, DC: Zero to Three.
For more information on the well-being of children in Memphis and Shelby County, visit The Urban Child Institute at http://www.theurbanchildinstitute.org.