Home Visiting: Building a System to Serve More Families

Home Visiting: Building a System to Serve More Families

Q&A with Sara Kinsman, Philadelphia Department of Public Health

Children thrive when parents and extended family are connected to their learning. When parents are equipped with the right information, research shows that children are more prepared to enter kindergarten and are more successful academically throughout their school years.

In Philadelphia, several home visiting programs offer new moms and young families the support and know-how needed to raise healthy children. The evidence base for home visiting is strong and growing. These programs can play a critical role in fostering early academic and social-emotional skills. Here at the Foundation, we are funding efforts to strengthen the ability of Philadelphia’s home visiting service providers to reach and help families. We are also supporting other efforts to engage families in children’s learning.

We recently announced a $1.3 million grant to the Philadelphia Department of Public Health (PDPH) to create and implement a centralized intake system that will advance the capabilities of Philadelphia’s home visiting field. Here, Sara Kinsman, Director of the Maternal, Child, and Family Health division of PDPH, shares insights on home visiting and the opportunities to expand these impactful services in Philadelphia.

In what ways have you seen home visiting impact the lives of Philadelphia families?
Home visiting programs provide a range of home-based services designed to support pregnant women and families of young children. Home visiting programs empower families and help them connect with community resources, promote positive parenting, and improve school readiness. In Philadelphia, we have several different voluntary home visiting programs that offer a variety of service models. Some home visiting programs offer monthly check-ins to help families access health care, early childhood education, and other available supports in Philadelphia. Other home visiting programs meet weekly with the family in their home to broadly support parents in raising their children.

At PDPH, we have seen the transformative effect that home visitors can have for families. In fact, several mothers who received home visiting support when their children were young are now PDPH Healthy Start home visitors themselves. One PDPH Breastfeeding Consultant remembers that her home visitor helped her stay in school, complete college, raise two healthy and curious boys, and become an emerging public health leader in Philadelphia.

How can home visiting support early literacy development in young children?
Early literacy development begins with creating a language-rich home environment for young children. Home visitors help support families in this process by discussing the importance of talking and reading to young children, providing books, and modeling effective communication. Many home visitors can also help to ensure that children are getting the right education outside of the home by guiding families in the enrollment process for high-quality early childhood education programs.

Why is the Maternal, Child and Family Health division of PDPH invested in the local home visiting field?
The goal of the Maternal, Child, and Family Health (MCFH) Division of PDPH is to support the health, growth, and development of families in Philadelphia. From our own experience operating home visiting programs, we have seen how these services can profoundly and positively impact families. We believe that when the various providers of home visiting programs in Philadelphia work together to coordinate access to home visiting, more families will be able benefit from these important services.

That is why we are thrilled that six home visiting providers, currently serving over 3,000 families across Philadelphia, are working together with MCFH to create the centralized intake system for home visiting. In addition to our Healthy Start and MOM PAT programs run through PDPH, we are working with the following home visiting providers: Maternity Care Coalition, Nurse-Family Partnership, Health Federation, CHOP Early Head Start, Communities in Schools ELECT Program, and the Parent-Child Home Program.

How will the new centralized intake system enhance the home visiting field in Philadelphia?
The new centralized intake system will act as a “one-stop-shop” for home visiting in Philadelphia, making it easier for parents – and for organizations that refer clients to home visiting – to access these services. Our goal is that by streamlining and centralizing the process for families or other social service providers to connect with home visiting services, more families will know about the benefits of home visiting and will be able to access the program that best suits their needs. Over time, once families can more easily obtain and enjoy the support of high quality home visiting services, we hope to see improvements in the health, development, school readiness, and educational outcomes of these children. MCFH is committed to working with our partners citywide to make access easy and efficient, and to expand home visiting services to meet the needs of our families in Philadelphia.