What Is Home Visiting

“The fact is that child rearing is a long, hard job, the rewards are not always immediately obvious, the work is undervalued, and parents are just as human and almost as vulnerable as their children.” 

- Dr. Benjamin Spock

The moment a child is born, her brand-new parents experience a wide array of emotions – love, joy, protectiveness, and responsibility to name just a few.  Throughout human history, parents have relied on others in their families and communities to learn the many things needed to raise a healthy, happy child. 

Meanwhile, science has shown us the importance of starting children off on the right foot in life.  A baby’s brain develops faster in the first three years than at any other point in life, a revolutionary understanding that’s a vast change from the old notion that babies were “blank slates.”

Parenting support of one kind or another is essential for all families. Yet for many, their personal support network may not be enough to help them through the challenges of their child’s earliest years.

Voluntary home visiting offers parents of young children a network of additional support, mentoring, and coaching in the home. It is available in hundreds of communities across the country.   

Home visiting started in local communities that wanted a better way to help families. Along the way, home visiting efforts have attracted support from philanthropies and local, state and federal governments because the research shows home visiting helps improve outcomes for children, especially in the most vulnerable families.

Home Visiting Models

Communities choose from among different approaches to voluntary home visiting to best meet their needs. Home visiting models may focus on maternal and child health, child abuse prevention, or school readiness. They may work with parents before the first child is born, with parents whose children have not yet reached their first birthday, or with parents of older children who have not yet started kindergarten.

Voluntary home visiting typically includes the following:

  • Home visits are offered to at-risk families with young children, sometimes starting during the prenatal period. Visits may continue until the child enters kindergarten. Some communities offer universal home visiting to all families of newborns.
  • Parents request home visits.
  • Home visitors are trained to help coach parents. The home visitor may be a nurse, social worker, early childhood specialist or community peer with specialized training.
  • Home visitors may focus on maternal and child health, parenting and family education, prevention of child abuse and neglect, or school readiness.
  • Home visitors work with parents or primary caregivers, helping develop greater understanding of children’s health and development, identifying developmental challenges, and showing caregivers how to support the child’s growth, development or learning.