Home visiting programs, such as Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY) and the Parent-Child Home Program, were created to give low-income families greater access to parenting resources.
In the decades since these programs were launched, professionals have questioned how frequently visits must take place for the program to actually work. They also have questioned whether programs that employ paraprofessionals, rather than medical professionals, are as effective.
Angela Nievar, assistant professor of educational psychology, recently completed a comprehensive statistical analysis of existing research on home visiting programs, which sought to answer some lingering questions about home visiting. Her study, which was recently published in the Journal of Infant Mental Health, found that:
- Overall, preschool children who participate in home visiting programs are taught more at home by their parents than their counterparts who don't participate in these programs, suggesting that children in home visiting programs will be more successful in school.
- Home visiting programs are most effective if visits take place at least once a week.
- There is not a difference in effectiveness between programs that employ paraprofessionals versus programs that employ nurses or other licensed professionals, such as social workers.
Nievar says that determining the factors that contribute to the effectiveness of home visit programs is particularly important since the Obama administration has a number of initiatives aimed at improving America's education system, including home visiting. The finding that paraprofessionals can be employed could be significant as the government discusses providing funding to home visiting programs, since paraprofessionals require a lower wage than medical professionals.
"There are studies that show that the school achievement effects of these programs save school administrations almost two dollars for every dollar spent. Schools save money because fewer students need special education and fewer students are held back every year," Nievar says. "I believe that these studies inform educational policy at the highest level."
Alyssa Yancey with UNT News Service can be reached at Alyssa.firstname.lastname@example.org.