Things to Know About DC’s Home Visitation Program Expansion

November 30th, 2012 | by Soumya Bhat and Wes Rivers

This fall, the DC Department of Health (DOH) was one of six applicants nationwide to win a competitive federal grant to expand DC’s Home Visitation Program, which serves at-risk families with young children.  The grant, $2.25 million per year for two years, provides the District with many opportunities, and it will be critical for DOH to adopt long-term strategies to make sure the system is sustained past the two-year grant cycle.

 Due to limited funding, the current home visiting program only serves at-risk families in Wards 5, 7 and 8. The new funds will allow DC to provide home visitation services to such families, no matter what part of the city they live in. High-priority families who may be eligible for home visitation services include those that are low-income, have a history of child abuse or neglect, have children with developmental delays or disabilities, and pregnant teenagers.

The new funds also will enhance DC’s ability to connect high-risk families to needed home visitation programs and other services, by building a centralized intake and referral system, a hotline for families seeking help, and a universal screening tool for groups that work with high-risk families who are pregnant or already parents of young children.

The new grant will also boost the capacity of the Home Visitation Program through professional development. Currently, the District does not have any coordinated professional training in place to make sure all providers have the necessary skills to deliver high-quality home visitation services to families.

Finally, DOH is partnering with Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development to study the implementation and impact of the expansion through a formal program evaluation. This process will help identify what is working and what is not to create a more effective delivery system.

As DC DOH begins the hard work of implementing these plans with the new funding, DCFPI would like to offer a few considerations:

  • Fiscal sustainability is key to ensuring the long-term success of the expansion. Specifically, this means the need to secure investments by District agencies to maintain the universal screening and assessment mechanism that is being developed. Without an integrated approach, the additional services being provided to families in need may have to be dropped once the funding cycle ends.
  • Similarly, initial investments in data and professional development infrastructure could benefit several other initiatives that fall under the Mayor’s Early Success Framework, an initiative to improve city-wide coordination to better serve families with young children.
  • Finally, the investment can continue to build communication and collaboration across District agencies, and put service provision in the hands of community-based organizations that are familiar with the people and needs of the communities served.

 A copy of the final home visitation grant application can be found here.

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