An abundance of research indicates that children’s early experiences create a foundation for their future development. Although much of PEER’s research has focused on early care and education outside children’s homes, our partner organizations firmly agree that supporting children’s learning within the home is also crucial. Home visiting programs are designed to support parents and other primary caregivers—the individuals who are children’s first teachers—so that families can promote positive child development from birth or even earlier.
Last fall, the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood (OEC) released a new home visiting request for proposals (RFP), which was informed by a needs assessment conducted by the University of Connecticut School of Social Work in partnership with the OEC and the Connecticut Home Visiting Advisory Board. The RFP identified three goals for Connecticut’s home visiting system: (1) improving perinatal health outcomes for babies and mothers; (2) supporting parenting practices and child development; and (3) reducing child maltreatment, including neglect as well as abuse. The RFP also reflected a commitment to engaging families earlier by enrolling parents before the birth of their child, particularly parents under age 20 and parents from communities with disproportionately high rates of adverse birth outcomes.
This spring, the OEC announced it had selected nineteen organizations that responded to the home visiting RFP, including four proposals from Bridgeport, Norwalk, and Stamford. The Partnership for Early Education Research (PEER), led by Dr. Michael Strambler, is working with two of these awardees: the Greater Stamford Parenting Partnership and the Greater Norwalk Home Visiting Partnership. The Greater Stamford Parenting Partnership (GSPP) is led by Family Centers, with the substantial engagement of Child Guidance Center of Southern Connecticut (CGC), Stamford Cradle to Career (SC2C), Child Development Infoline (211), and Children’s Learning Centers (CLC). The Greater Norwalk Home Visiting Partnership (GNHVP) is led by Family & Children’s Agency, with the substantial engagement of Odyssey Preschool and the Odyssey Family Executive Center of South Norwalk, Inc..
PEER’s role in both partnerships is to support the partners in defining and measuring outcomes within the OEC’s three goal areas and using data to continuously improve program delivery and impact. Each of these partnerships includes two different home visiting providers, which use distinctly different home visiting models. For example, Family Centers uses the Parents as Teachers model to serve families in greater Stamford, while Child Guidance Center uses the Child First model to serve different families in the same geographic area. These two models are fundamentally different in terms of enrollment criteria, the type of home visitor, and the mechanisms through which they aim to strengthen child development and family functioning. As GPSS works to streamline the home visiting enrollment process and increase the number of families served, PEER is working with the Family Centers and Child Guidance Center home visiting programs to identify opportunities to promote collaboration and coherence through the use of common measures and processes. Although both GSPP and GNHVP are still young, PEER is excited to participate and looks forward to the early fruits of these collaborations.