Early Education

More than 220,000 Mississippi children may be missing out on promising home visiting program

More families are receiving home visits, but hundreds of thousands still in need

Editor’s note: This story led off this week’s Mississippi Learning newsletter, which is delivered free to subscribers’ inboxes with trends and top stories about education in Mississippi. Subscribe today!

The number of Mississippi families receiving assistance from “evidence-based” home visiting programs grew by 350 between 2015 and 2017, but almost 230,000 children in the state who could benefit from the visits are still missing out, according to a new report by the National Home Visiting Resource Center (NHVRC). A program is “evidence based” if a rigorous evaluation of the program reveals that it produces positive results.

In 2017, staff from the four programs, operated through 20 local agencies, made 14,682 home visits to 1,058 families and 829 children in the state. Home visits differ in scope depending on the program, but most are conducted by trained staff members or, in some cases, nurses, who visit families on a regular basis, including while a mother is pregnant. The programs promote child health, encourage nurturing relationships between children and family members and strive to increase parent knowledge of child development and parenting strategies. Some programs focus specifically on preventing child abuse and neglect and identifying developmental delays in children at an early age.

Nationwide, many home visiting programs have been proven to lead to positive outcomes for parents and their children, with some programs reducing behavioral and emotional problems in children, decreasing child abuse and neglect, increasing the percentage of women receiving prenatal care and even improving breastfeeding rates. The NHVRC reported that more than 3.5 million home visits were provided nationwide to 304,259 families and more than 334,000 children, although the group estimates some 18 million families and pregnant women could benefit from the visits. More than a quarter of these families — 26 percent — are led by a single mother and 8 percent are led by a parent with no high school diploma, the report stated.

NHVRC Deputy Project Director Allison Meisch noted that many families could benefit from home visiting. In a statement, she highlighted the impact the programs can have beyond working on parenting skills. “Decades of research tell us that home visiting can improve outcomes for children and help parents achieve their own education and career goals as they strive for financial self-sufficiency.”

In Mississippi, the majority of children who benefited from home visiting in 2017 were black, and nearly 20 percent of caregivers who received home visits had no high school diploma. The majority of children who were served ranged in age from infants to age 2.

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Jackie Mader

Jackie Mader is multimedia editor. She has covered preK-12 education and teacher preparation nationwide, with a focus on the rural south. Her work has appeared… See Archive

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