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Learning by Doing: Home Visiting Program Practitioners Converge on D.C.

Just as new parents learn and grow from their experience, the field of Home Visiting — programs designed to support parents and caregivers with newborns — continues to evolve. From data performance to Home Visiting 4.0, First 5 LA staff recently shared and learned about best practices in and the promise of home visiting at The Pew Charitable Trusts’ fifth National Summit on Quality in Home Visiting Conference in Washington, D.C.

More than 700 professionals were drawn to the two-day event, which offered a thought-provoking forum to learn about the latest developments in the field and connect with colleagues across the country.

“The Summit gave me the chance to learn how home visiting is implemented all over the country,” said First 5 LA Information Analytics Manager Holly Campbell. “Sometimes our work in Los Angeles feels unbelievably massive and complicated, but all programs are struggling with the same basic questions of communicating results, measuring quality and running good programs. We in L.A. have a lot to learn, but also a lot of opportunities to expand the knowledge base in the field.”

“Sometimes our work in Los Angeles feels unbelievably massive and complicated, but all programs are struggling with the same basic questions of communicating results, measuring quality and running good programs." - Holly Campbell

One of First 5 LA’s core investments is its Welcome Baby program, which offers parents support through free, voluntary visits provided at home before and after a child’s birth at 13 participating hospitals that serve the Best Start communities. In addition to maternal screenings for depression and developmental screenings of infants, trained professional home visitors provide mothers with information and support on positive parenting, child health and development, and links to other community services. The program is voluntary and available to all L.A. County families at no cost, regardless of income status. Families who need additional support are eligible to receive services from one of First 5 LA’s more focused home visiting programs, which work with families more frequently based on the family’s needs. These national program models include Healthy Families America, Parents as Teachers, and Positive Parenting Program.

Campbell did her part expanding the home visiting knowledge base by participating in a panel in a workshop session at the Summit entitled “Data Performance in the State.” As part of the LA County Perinatal and Early Childhood Home Visitation Consortium, Holly walked everyone through the process First 5 LA participated in to help identify common indicators for home visiting programs across L.A. County.

The Summit’s other home visiting workshops, panels and breakout sessions focused on a variety of topics: home visiting with two parents, harsh parenting, state innovations, fathers and healthy child development, agency and community collaboration, reducing maternal stress and more.

Also at the Summit, Dr. Deborah Daro — the Chapin Hall senior research fellow who has lent her home visiting expertise to First 5 LA — gave a glimpse into the history and the future of home visiting.

Daro spoke of home visiting’s beginning with version 1.0 — when program models began developing in the 1970s — to version 2.0, which included what Daro called the “model wars” where programs used data to prove they worked “best.” This gave way to version 3.0 in 2000 to the present, where collaboration between programs began to increase, along with the recognition that programs are not “one size fits all.” Ultimately, Daro said, the plethora of choices is indeed good for communities.

“One of Dr. Daro’s most striking thoughts was her vision for home visiting version 4.0 somewhere in the far, far future,” said Summit attendee and First 5 LA Interim Senior Program Officer Diana Careaga. “It was a striking thought — what if we entered the world with the same level of care and support that is provided right before we leave it? What if babies had the same network of services and resources as the elderly — health care, mental health, housing and safety, to name a few? Indeed a big, but tantalizing ‘what-if?’”

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