Home-Based Child Care and Home Visiting Explored at the Head Start Research Conference
Last week, the Office of Head Start hosted its 10th National Research Conference, a biennial national event to highlight new information to help Head Start programs continue to improve the quality of the services they provide. Home-based child care and home visiting are receiving increasing attention in research (see session highlights below), as well as in the policy sphere.
As states move forward with systems-building work through their Early Childhood Advisory Councils (created by the most recent Head Start reauthorization and funded through the ARRA) and applying for the new federal home visiting program, it will be important to integrate home-based child care and home visitation services into states' comprehensive systems for early childhood. Over the next year, CLASP is planning to study these issues and produce case studies highlighting partnership models to help state leaders and policymakers seeking to improve and increase comprehensive services for young children.
At the conference session, "Unpacking the Impact of Support Programs for Home-Based Child Care Providers," three presenters shared research from initiatives working with family child care providers (FCC) and family, friend, and neighbor caregivers (FFN). Researchers are evaluating several different types of supports for home-based providers. For example, an evaluation of a home visiting program with FCC and FFN in Rochester, New York, found the quality of child care improved for program participants compared to a randomly assigned control group. A study of networks to support FCC in Chicago, Illinois, found the greatest impacts occurred when networks were staffed by coordinators with specific training to provide direct support to FCC, such as regular communication, onsite training, and frequent home visits. New, unpublished research on Minnesota's grant project for FFN highlighted qualitative findings from interviews with FFN caregivers, around the four themes of: enriching knowledge, practice, and skills; understanding school readiness; perceptions of self as a caregiver; and building communities. CLASP has also done research on best practices to extend home visiting to FCC and FFN.
Another conference session, "Evidence-Based Home Visiting: New Strategies and Tools for Advancing the Field," shared new research findings from an additional three studies. The Early Head Start Family and Child Experiences Study (Baby FACES) is an ongoing study of infants, toddlers, and their families enrolled in Early Head Start (EHS). Presenters shared data from the spring 2009 data collection, when nearly half of children in the sample received home-based EHS services. The study found that home visitors averaged nine years of experience and included child-focused activities, parent-family activities, and parent-child activities in their visits. Researchers are examining data they have collected that measures the quality of the home visit to determine whether there are correlations between high-quality visits and home visitor characteristics, training, or activities. Another ongoing evaluation study is examining a program funded by the Children's Bureau within the Administration for Children and Families, Supporting Evidence Based Home Visiting to Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect (EBHV). A cross-site evaluation of all 17 grantees is underway to focus on key issues in home visiting, including: curricula, service duration and intensity, home visitor qualifications, fidelity, collaboration, infrastructure development, and evaluation. Lastly, recently published studies on home visitation programs in Washington State relied on data collected by a research team piloting the use of the Home Visit Rating Scales-Adapated (HOVRS-A), a newer measure to observe the content and quality of home visits. Using this measure, researchers documented the characteristics and activities of home visits in two Washington communities, as well as identified areas of consideration for future users of this instrument, such as whether it is culturally appropriate for all families.
CLASP looks forward to continuing to track these research developments as it moves forward with its work on policies and partnerships that strengthen home-based child care and home visiting.