There's No Place Like Home for Improving Parenting in Low-Income Families

Multi-site evaluation of school-sponsored home visiting program for low-income families and infants

The Parents as Teachers National Center (PATNC) conducted a multi-site randomized evaluation starting in 1997 of outcomes for low-income infants, toddlers and parents who received services from Parents as Teachers (PAT).

PAT, the nation's largest home-visiting program, provides parents with support and information on their children's development.

PATNC coordinated the evaluation and sub-contracted with SRI International, an independent, nonprofit, knowledge-based research and consulting organization in Menlo Park, Calif., for design, data collection and analyses.

During the third and fourth years of the project, PATNC organized a "Forum on Home Visiting" in Washington, D.C. and began a qualitative study of recruitment retention and program improvement.

Key Results:

  • SRI completed the three-site randomized evaluation of PAT's outcomes through the child's third birthday at one site and second birthday at the other two sites.
  • PATNC sponsored the "Forum on Home Visiting" on Dec. 13–14, 1999, in Washington, D.C.
  • SRI and PATNC conducted a qualitative study of a subset of high needs families that participated in PAT for at least one year.

Key Findings: According to reports submitted to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) by PATNC and SRI:

  • PAT is most effective when it is part of an umbrella of social services.
  • PAT had some positive benefits to parents in improving their knowledge, attitudes and behaviors. Families with the lowest incomes ($15,000 or less annually) benefited more from PAT than other families.
  • PAT had a small positive effect on the children's social adjustment.
  • PAT had a few health benefits.
  • People should have modest expectations for PAT and other home visiting programs. There are many levels of parental engagement in home visiting programs. There is no single profile of an engaged parent. Some assumptions regarding barriers to engagement appear to be inaccurate.
  • Some parent educator qualities are critical to engaging parents successfully.

Limitations:

  • Because the sample size was so much smaller than planned and differences between the sites were great, the overall quantitative evaluation results should be viewed with caution.