Effectiveness of Home Visiting Programs in Reaching Infants and Toddlers in Immigrant & DLL Families Can Be Improved
WASHINGTON – Home visiting programs, which serve expecting and new parents alongside their infants and toddlers, have proven to be an effective model to support maternal health and well-being as well as children’s health and socioemotional development, particularly for at-risk families.
Young children in immigrant families and in households where a language other than English is spoken (Dual Language Learners, or DLLs) are important targets for such early childhood interventions as they are disproportionately likely to face risk factors that can negatively affect their well-being and long-term outcomes. Yet these children, who represent more than 1 in 4 young children in the United States, are underserved by these home-based, two-generation programs, which have attracted significant federal support in recent years.
A new policy brief from the Migration Policy Institute’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy examines the characteristics of immigrant and DLL children and home visiting programs, as well as the barriers that impede participation and opportunities to mitigate them.
Nearly 6 million children ages 5 and under have at least one immigrant parent; the vast majority are DLLs. Another 2.3 million kids with U.S.-born parents are also DLLs. Together, immigrants and DLLs represent a growing share of the nearly 23.7 million U.S. children ages 5 and under.
Home visiting programs are particularly well placed to promote improved outcomes for immigrant and DLL children because they can reach isolated or otherwise hard-to-reach families and because their two-generation approach can serve family needs holistically. Yet their effectiveness is limited by language barriers, lack of cultural competence among program staff and data limitations that hamper tracking participation and outcomes for immigrant and DLL families.
The brief, by MPI’s Maki Park and Caitlin Katsiaficas, suggests ways in which states and counties could improve home visiting programs, among them:
- Include immigrant- and DLL-relevant indicators in the statewide needs assessment updates that the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program—the major federal home visiting funding stream—requires by October 2020
- Increase the availability of home visiting programs within immigrant- and refugee-serving agencies and promote partnerships with community-based organizations that can help provide services to harder-to-reach communities
- Leverage home visiting program models that explicitly incorporate principles of trauma-informed care to mitigate the effects of trauma and stressors that refugee and other immigrant families may experience
- Strengthen the recruitment and hiring of diverse staff and provide professional development opportunities for all staff on cultural responsiveness and the importance of home-language development.
“As one of the few U.S. public services that support parents and their young children during a developmentally critical period, home visiting services have enormous potential to improve child outcomes and support the integration goals of entire immigrant families—which in turn benefits the broader society,” said Margie McHugh, director of the National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy.
The policy brief, Leveraging the Potential of Home Visiting Programs to Serve Immigrant and Dual Language Learner Families, can be accessed here: www.migrationpolicy.org/research/home-visiting-immigrant-dual-language-learner-families.
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The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank in Washington, DC dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide. MPI provides analysis, development and evaluation of migration and refugee policies at the local, national and international levels. MPI’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy is a crossroads for elected officials, researchers, state and local agency managers, grassroots leaders, local service providers and others who seek to understand and respond to the challenges and opportunities today’s high rates of immigration create in local communities.