Topic Editor: Donna Spiker, PhD, and Erika Gaylor, PhD, Center for Education and Human Services, SRI International, USA
The update and translation of this topic, which includes new papers, have been funded by UNICEF.
Home visiting (HV) programs are a type of prevention strategy that provides a range of structured services to young children and their family in a home- setting environment and from a trained service provider. These structured services include case management, referrals to existing community services, parenting and child education and social support to pregnant women among others. Although most HV programs are voluntary, some states and communities highly encourage participation by families with risk of maltreatment. Over the last two decades, a growing number of HV programs have been implemented in developed and developing countries. Examples of programs in Canada and the United Sates include Parent as Teachers, Nurse Family Partnerships, Early Head Start, and Healthy Steps, whereas Educate Your Child,1 The Roving Caregivers,2 and Madres Guías3 are examples of programs found in Latin America and in the Caribbean.
Educate Your Child (Cuba) is a non-institutionalized, community- and family-based program available to Cuban children under the age of six years old and pregnant women. Service providers offer individualized care to children and demonstrations of stimulation activities to parents during in-home sessions. Positive impacts on children’s socio-emotional and motor development have been found following participation to the program. The program methodology has been adapted in different countries, including Ecuador, Chile, Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia and Guatemala.
The Roving Caregivers (Caribbean countries) is an early childhood development and family support program available to at-risk Caribbean children under the age of three years old. Service providers make regular visits to families to provide a range of services, such as direct support to children and their families, quality care and attention, better health and nutrition and preschool preparation. Children who participated in the program showed improvement in terms of cognitive development, expressive language, visual perception and overall school readiness.
Madres Guías (Honduras) is one of the most comprehensive community- and home-based programs available to children from birth to age four or six years old and to pregnant women living under the poverty line in municipalities with the highest rate of mortality and malnutrition in Honduras (Central America). Madres Guías (i.e., mother guides) provide prenatal education, newborn screening, early stimulation, parental education and support, nutrition services and basic education. Materials used for child and/or parental training are all adapted to the communities’ language and sociocultural conditions.
Although home visiting programs differ from each other in terms of targeted population (children with disabilities, teen mothers, at-risk families), providers (professionals, paraprofessionals, volunteers), activities and schedules, they all share the same objective, which is to support children’s healthy growth and development. More specifically, the main goals of most HV programs are to improve parents’ child-rearing beliefs, knowledge and ability to provide a positive environment for their children. By reaching out to families and caregivers who would not otherwise seek support services, these programs have the potential to improve parenting skills and to reduce short- and long-term adverse outcomes for child’s heath and development.