Paul Guerin, senior research scientist in the University of New Mexico Institute for Social Research, conducted a study on behalf of Catholic Health Initiatives to determine if CHI’s St. Joseph’s Children home visiting program was following evidence-based practices.
After completing an intensive two-year study, which carefully monitored interactions of St Joseph’s home visitors with client families, Guerin concluded that SJC’s large scale home visiting program, with nearly 500 families, is consistently implementing evidence-based practices.
St. Joseph’s Children’s home visiting program follows socio-economically disadvantaged pre-natal through age three firstborn children and their mothers in Bernalillo, Valencia, Sandoval, Torrance and Luna counties. “This program could be a model for other states in providing high quality service to children,” Guerin said.
Allen Sánchez, CEO of Catholic Health Initiatives’ St. Joseph’s Children said, “The significance of this finding cannot be overstated.” He noted that the Legislative Finance Committee documented last spring in its Results First Report: “Rigorous research has demonstrated that evidence-based early childhood programs can improve education outcomes. In many cases, the benefits to taxpayers and society from these programs far outweigh the costs."
Evidence based early childhood programs, the LFC explained, “promote healthy early development and lay the foundation for greater achievement, economic productivity and responsible citizenship. The best early care environments maintain high-quality standards such as highly-skilled teachers and caregivers, low caregiver- and teacher-to-child ratios, language-rich environments, consistent and stable caregivers and teachers, healthy food, calm environments, and consistent participation."
Such an evidence-based implementation is exactly what UNM ISR concluded SJC had achieved in one of the largest home visiting programs in the country.
Policy implications are clear, particularly regarding funding statewide early childhood programs via a one-percent distribution from the State’s $15 Billion Land Grant Permanent Fund.
Evidence based, scaled up, early childhood programs can be, and now have been, successfully implemented.
Sánchez noted, “Today New Mexico ranks 49th nationally for children’s well-being as published in the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2014 Kids Count data book. As the state struggles to change the outcomes for our children, early, large-scale intervention is plainly one of the answers.”
The LFC further concluded in its Results First Report: “Cost-benefit analysis shows investment in high-quality early childhood programs produces future savings by reducing remediation needs in public and higher education, special education, juvenile rehabilitation, juvenile and adult criminal activity, and welfare assistance."
The UNM study reveals that a large home visiting program can deliver high quality services with fidelity to known best practices. Social workers, educators and policy makers have been faced with challenges of what to do to change the trajectory many children are on.
The study demonstrates that a large home visiting program can deliver services that educate first time parents with a curriculum for health and school readiness. There are many national studies that prove that similar early childhood services create much needed change; today this UNM study shows that a large program can deliver those services.
Guerin said that today’s study is a preface to another UNM-designed study. “The purpose of the next study is to determine the short-term and long-term impact and effectiveness of the CHI SJC program model. The study will examine and compare outcomes between families receiving home visiting services and those of a control group. This will be a longitudinal study following children through 18 years of age.”
Outcome domains may include:
· Child development and school readiness
· Family economic self-sufficiency
· Maternal health
· Reductions in child maltreatment
· Child health
· Linkages and referrals
· Positive parenting practices
· Reductions in juvenile delinquency, family violence, and crime