Early childhood home visiting programs

Evidence Rating  
Evidence rating: Scientifically Supported

Strategies with this rating are most likely to make a difference. These strategies have been tested in many robust studies with consistently positive results.

Health Factors  
Date last updated

In early childhood home visiting programs trained personnel regularly visit at-risk expectant parents and families with young children and provide them with information, support, and/or training regarding child health, development, and care based on families’ needs. Home visitors can be nurses, social workers, parent educators, paraprofessionals, lay workers from within the community, or others. Home visiting often begins prenatally and continues during the child’s first two years of life, but may also begin after birth, last only a few months, or extend until kindergarten1, 2.

What could this strategy improve?

Expected Benefits

Our evidence rating is based on the likelihood of achieving these outcomes:

  • Reduced child maltreatment

  • Reduced child injury

  • Improved cognitive skills

  • Improved social emotional skills

  • Improved parenting

  • Improved birth outcomes

  • Improved maternal health

  • Improved economic security

Potential Benefits

Our evidence rating is not based on these outcomes, but these benefits may also be possible:

  • Improved prenatal care

  • Reduced hospital utilization

  • Reduced rapid repeat pregnancies

  • Increased use of contraception

  • Reduced intimate partner violence

What does the research say about effectiveness?

There is strong evidence that early childhood home visiting programs prevent child maltreatment2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and injury9, 10, and improve children’s cognitive and socio-emotional development2, 5, 6, 11, 12. Early childhood home visiting programs have also been shown to improve birth outcomes2, 5, 13, maternal health2, parenting behaviors and attitudes2, 6, 12, 14, and increase family economic self-sufficiency2, 11. Effects are often sustained until children reach age 711.

Home visiting programs have been shown to reduce maternal postpartum depression in the U.S.2 and internationally15. Home visiting begun prenatally may increase use of prenatal care2, 13, improve infant health, increase vaccination2, 5, 8, 16, and reduce infant visits to the emergency room17. Some home visiting programs for preterm babies appear to improve physical growth and reduce hospitalization12. Visits begun postnatally may improve infant health and increase exclusive breastfeeding, particularly with frequent visits; however, they may not reduce child mortality or improve maternal health18.

Programs for teenage mothers may reduce rapid repeat pregnancies19, 20, and increase use of contraception19. Home visiting programs for mothers who have been abused appear to reduce intimate partner violence21, 22. An evaluation of the Family Spirit program suggests home visiting can improve child development, school readiness, maternal health, and parenting practices among American Indian families23. Home visiting programs may not be successful, and may even be harmful, when participants abuse drugs or alcohol24.

Longer term and more intense interventions, supervision of home visitors, and fidelity monitoring appear to increase positive effects on child maltreatment3, 4, 8 and cognitive outcomes6. Programs delivered by licensed professionals appear to have stronger effects on children’s cognitive outcomes than programs delivered by paraprofessionals or non-professionals. However, research regarding home visiting and child maltreatment does not consistently indicate that one type of provider delivers the most effective interventions. Additional evidence is needed to confirm the most effective method of implementation for any particular outcome of interest3, 4, 6, 8.

Home visiting interventions are cost-effective in the long term, benefiting disadvantaged families and increasing economic sufficiency and stability11.

How could this strategy impact health disparities? This strategy is rated likely to decrease disparities.
Implementation Examples

The federal Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV), administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration provides states, territories and tribal communities with funding to implement early childhood home visiting models that have been approved through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (DHHS) Home Visiting Evidence of Effectiveness (HomVEE) review25. In fiscal year 2016, 893 counties received grants from the MIECHV program; about a half of grantee counties were rural1.

As of August 2017, 20 home visiting models that meet DHHS criteria for evidence-based program models2, for example, Healthy Families America26, Nurse-Family Partnership27, Parents as Teachers28, and Early Head Start-Home Visiting29.

Implementation Resources

US DHHS-Home visiting - U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (U.S. DHHS). Child Welfare Information Gateway. Home visiting.

US DHHS-HomVEE - U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (U.S. DHHS). Home Visiting Evidence of Effectiveness (HomVEE).

HRSA-Home visiting - Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). Home visiting.

US DHHS ACF-Tribal HV - U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (U.S. DHHS), Administration for Children and Families (ACF). Tribal home visiting (HV).

DC HealthCheck - District of Columbia's HealthCheck Training & Resource Center. Home visiting toolkit.


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1 HRSA-MIECHV 2017 - Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). The Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program: Partnering with parents to help children succeed. MIECHV program national program brief 2017.

2 OPRE-Sama-Miller 2017 - Sama-Miller E, Akers L, Mraz-Esposito A, et al. Home visiting evidence of effectiveness review: Executive summary. Washington, D.C.: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE), Administration for Children and Families (ACF), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (U.S. DHHS); 2017.

3 Casillas 2016 - Casillas KL, Fauchier A, Derkash BT, Garrido EF. Implementation of evidence-based home visiting programs aimed at reducing child maltreatment: A meta-analytic review. Child Abuse and Neglect. 2016;53:64-80.

4 Selph 2013 - Selph SS, Bougatsos C, Blazina I, Nelson HD. Behavioral interventions and counseling to prevent child abuse and neglect: A systematic review to update the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2013;158(3):179–90.

5 Peacock 2013 - Peacock S, Konrad S, Watson E, Nickel D, Muhajarine N. Effectiveness of home visiting programs on child outcomes: A systematic review. BMC Public Health. 2013;13:17.

6 Sweet 2004 - Sweet MA, Appelbaum MI. Is home visiting an effective strategy? A meta-analytic review of home visiting programs for families with young children. Child Development. 2004;75(5):1435-56.

7 MacLeod 2000 - MacLeod J, Nelson G. Programs for the promotion of family wellness and the prevention of child maltreatment: A meta-analytic review. Child Abuse & Neglect. 2000;24(9):1127-49.

8 CG-Violence - The Guide to Community Preventive Services (The Community Guide). Violence.

9 Cochrane-Kendrick 2013 - Kendrick D, Mulvaney CA, Ye L, et al. Parenting interventions for the prevention of unintentional injuries in childhood. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2013;(3):CD006020.

10 Roberts 1996 - Roberts I, Kramer MS, Suissa S. Does home visiting prevent childhood injury? A systematic review of randomised controlled trials. BMJ. 1996;312(7022):29-33.

11 MDRC-Michalopoulos 2017 - Michalopoulos C, Faucetta K, Warren A, Mitchell R. Evidence on the long-term effects of home visiting programs: Laying the groundwork for long-term follow-up in the Mother and Infant Home Visiting Program Evaluation (MIHOPE). New York: Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation (MDRC); 2017.

12 Goyal 2013 - Goyal NK, Teeters A, Ammerman RT. Home visiting and outcomes of preterm infants: A systematic review. Pediatrics. 2013;132(3):502-516.

13 Issel 2011 - Issel LM, Forrestal SG, Slaughter J, Wiencrot A, Arden H. A review of prenatal home-visiting effectiveness for improving birth outcomes. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic & Neonatal Nursing. 2011;40(2):157-65.

14 Kendrick 2000 - Kendrick D, Elkan R, Hewitt M, et al. Does home visiting improve parenting and the quality of the home environment? A systematic review and meta analysis. Archives of Disease in Childhood. 2000;82(6):443-51.

15 Cochrane-Dennis 2013 - Dennis CL, Dowswell T. Psychosocial and psychological interventions for preventing postpartum depression. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2013;(2):CD001134.

16 El Fadl 2016 - El Fadl RA, Blair M, Hassounah S. Integrating maternal and children’s oral health promotion into nursing and midwifery practice - A systematic review. PLOS ONE. 2016;11(11):e0166760.

17 RAND-Kilburn 2017 - Kilburn MR, Cannon JS. Home visiting and use of infant health care: A randomized clinical trial. Pediatrics. 2017;139(1):e20161274.

18 Cochrane-Yonemoto 2017 - Yonemoto N, Dowswell T, Nagai S, Mori R. Schedules for home visits in the early postpartum period. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2017;(7):CD009326.

19 Cochrane-Lopez 2015 - Lopez LM, Grey TW, Hiller JE, Chen M. Education for contraceptive use by women after childbirth. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2015;(7):CD001863.

20 Maravilla 2016 - Maravilla JC, Betts KS, Abajobir AA, Couto e Cruz C, Alati R. The role of community health workers in preventing adolescent repeat pregnancies and births. Journal of Adolescent Health. 2016;59(4):378-390.

21 Prosman 2015 - Prosman GJ, Lo Fo Wong SH, van der Wouden JC, Lagro-Janssen ALM. Effectiveness of home visiting in reducing partner violence for families experiencing abuse: A systematic review. Family Practice. 2015;32(3):247-256.

22 Sharps 2016 - Sharps PW, Bullock LF, Campbell JC, et al. Domestic violence enhanced perinatal home visits: The DOVE randomized clinical trial. Journal of Women’s Health. 2016;25(11):1129-1138.

23 OPRE-Mraz Esposito 2017 - Mraz Esposito A, Coughlin R, Malick S, et al. Assessing the research on home visiting program models implemented in tribal communities - Part 1: Evidence of effectiveness. Washington, D.C.: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE), Administration for Children and Families (ACF), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (U.S. DHHS); 2017.

24 Cochrane-Turnbull 2012 - Turnbull C, Osborn DA. Home visits during pregnancy and after birth for women with an alcohol or drug problem. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2012;(1):CD004456.

25 HRSA-Home visiting - Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). Home visiting.

26 HFA - Healthy Families America (HFA). Great childhoods begin at home.

27 NFP - Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP). Helping first-time parents succeed.

28 PAT-Home visiting - Parents as Teachers (PAT). Universal access home visiting.

29 EHS-Home based - Early Head Start National Resource Center (EHS). Home-based option.