New research shows Parents as Teachers home-visiting model significantly reduces child abuse, neglect

Image courtesy Pixabay, CC0 public domain, St. George News

ST. LOUIS —  Research published this month coinciding with National Child Abuse Prevention Month found that the Parents as Teachers evidence-based home visiting model demonstrates a significant decrease in cases of child maltreatment when home visiting services are delivered through a scaled-up, statewide home visiting program.

According to Prevent Child Abuse Utah, the Parents as Teachers program is a free, evidence-based national home visitation program that provides mothers and fathers – as well as pregnant women – the education and support they need through the first five years of a child’s life.

We believe that all families want what is best for their children,” the website states. “We know that each family has their own unique culture, traditions and values.”

The Parents as Teachers program focuses on parent-child interaction, development-centered parenting and family well-being by providing support with the following:

  • School readiness.
  • Education goals.
  • Problem-solving skills.
  • Stress management.
  • Crisis management.
  • Substance abuse.
  • Resources.
  • Mental health issues.

The research published this month by “Child Abuse & Neglect, The International Journal” represents one of the largest studies in the U.S. conducted to investigate the impact of home visiting on child maltreatment, including nearly 8,000 families.

Researchers found a 22 percent decreased likelihood of substantiated cases of child maltreatment as reported by Child Protective Services data when comparing two groups of children born to first-time mothers. Children whose mothers received home visiting were compared to children whose mothers where eligible for home visiting but did not receive the services.

“This study is an important demonstration of the results that can be generated from large-scale implementation of the Parents as Teachers home visiting model,” Allison Kemner, vice president of research and quality at Parents as Teachers National Center said. “It helps create a clearer picture for communities about which programs work best to build positive interactions between parents and infants and young children. Parents as Teachers can stop abuse and neglect before it occurs.”

Dr. Barbara Chaiyachati, principal investigator on the study, formerly at Yale School of Medicine and current pediatrics resident at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said that safe and stable nurturing relationships are essential to prevent child abuse and neglect but expressed cautious optimism.

“This study provides promise that large-scale home visiting programs may be able to prevent child maltreatment,” Chaivachati said, “yet more studies are needed to confirm and clarify these findings.”

Other investigators were John M. Leventhal, MD, professor of pediatrics, Yale School of Medicine; Julie R. Gaither, PhD, instructor of pediatrics, Yale School of Medicine; Marcia Hughes, PhD, research and evaluation analyst, Center for Social Research, University of Hartford; and Karen Foley-Schain, MA, MEd, LLC, former director of the Nurturing Families Network in Connecticut.

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