Supporting Young Children and Families with Home-Visiting and Parenting Education

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February is Family Support Awareness Month
February is Family Support Awareness Month

Parents play the lead role in children’s healthy development, especially during their child’s earliest years when brain development is most rapid and foundational for lifelong health. The reality is that most family members find themselves stretched in the early months and years of their children’s lives. This is especially true during the pandemic when many families are balancing work, child care, and school with little support.

Providing families with the resources and support they need and want is critical to ensuring all North Carolina children have a strong start. To help raise awareness and improve family access to and utilization of support services that respect their unique beliefs and culture, Governor Cooper has proclaimed February as Family Support Awareness Month.

This month the state is lifting up family support provided by early childhood home visiting and parenting education (HVPE) programs. HVPE programs have been shown to help:

  • Strengthen the relationship between parents and children
  • Build social connections and a support system for families
  • Provide a bridge to families for concrete and emotional supports during the pandemic
  • Increase parent’s skills and confidence, such as skills that foster children’s social-emotional development 
  • Promote children’s health and safety, such as decreasing ER rates, increasing positive birth outcomes, and decreasing rates of child abuse and neglect

HVPE programs are delivered by well-trained professionals focused on the areas above. Providing access to home visiting and parenting education to all NC families would extend these benefits across the state. Unfortunately, the ability to access home visiting services varies greatly depending on where families live. See what the data tells us below:

  • According to the National Home Visiting Resource Center’s 2020 data, there are 710,900 children in NC who could benefit from home visiting, but current programs serve less than 2% of children in the state.
  • There is an acute shortage of home visiting programs in NC. According to a landscape analysis by the Jordan Institute for Families, many communities have no programs at all, and 72% of existing programs have a waiting list for services. 
  • As much as $5.70 is saved for every $1 invested in home visiting. These programs would save NC money on expensive social problems such as child abuse, poor academic performance, unemployment, and poverty.
Parenting education programs strengthen families and help to prevent child abuse and neglect.
Parenting education programs strengthen families and help to prevent child abuse and neglect.

A patchwork of home visiting services currently exists across NC and some areas have limited or no services. Existing services are funded in various ways and operate in silos that are not integrated into a larger early childhood system. Lack of coordination makes it difficult to ensure that home visiting services are equitably and sufficiently available to families across the state, and that parents know they are available.

Thankfully, NC state and community leaders aim to change this by working together to create a HVPE System Action Plan. According to the NC Partnership for Children, who leads this work, “the Action Plan calls for better coordination across state funders and across programs to build and maintain a system that remediates racial and economic inequities through the equitable access points, quality, and distribution of services.” Learn more about HVPE system-building in our state.

The importance of family support is also reinforced by the NC Pathways to Grade-Level Reading Initiative (Pathways). Supported and supportive families and communities is one of three areas highlighted in the Pathways Measures of Success Framework. Investing in two-generational interventions is also one of 44 actions prioritized by Pathways to ensure all NC children are on the path to reading on grade-level by the end of third grade. Pathways is currently mapping state and local initiatives that are leading work in the action areas. 

Pathways joins our partners in working towards a stronger HVPE system and expansion of family support services across NC. Learn more about some of the HVPE programs offered in our state: