Home visiting and Open Arms: an overview

I just wanted to post a few words about home visiting. OK, maybe more than a few! Open Arms deeply believes in the efficacy of the home visiting model, and our programs reflect this.

First – some background. Home visiting is, of course, when services are delivered in the client’s home as opposed to in an office or service center. Services are very often related to family services and prevention.

It turns out that home visiting programs are quite effective. One can see why, especially for the demographic that Open Arms serves. If a client can receive information at home, it does not require transportation or childcare in order to attend, and it’s a comfortable place in which the client can relax and be able to take in the information. Additionally, the home visiting service provider can proactively observe and respond to the home environment and day-to-day activities that otherwise might not be brought up in an office visit, making the services provided more relevant for the client. Everyone wins.

Our program at Open Arms is based on the home visiting and community outreach work of HealthConnect One in Chicago. If you are attending our luncheon this week Wednesday (there is still room!), you will hear more about the work they do from our keynote speaker, HealthConnect One Executive Director Rachel Abramson. You’ll also hear the larger context of the effectiveness of this work and why what we’re doing at Open Arms is on the forefront of a national movement for preventative healthcare.

Regardless of what your opinions are about the proposed healthcare reform, it is interesting to note that home visiting services are a key part of the healthcare proposal. For some context and research on this, see Home Visiting for At Risk Families: A Primer On a Major Obama Administration Initiative. This article, and others, uses as an example one very successful home visiting model called the Nurse-Family Parnership (NFP).

The NFP described in the link above is apart of Thrive By Five, just as Open Arms is. By funding Open Arms in addition to NFP, Thrive By Five will be able to show that that a) paraprofessionals such as doulas can be effective, b) even women who have already had babies can benefit greatly from home visiting support (NFP is geared towards first-time mothers), and c) serving older women is effective too (NFP is geared towards young moms).

And is it true that paraprofessionals such as doulas are effective in home visiting services? Yes. Our own statistics show positive outcomes, but for those of you who are interested in research, this summary Effectiveness of Home Visiting will be very useful in digging down and getting some answers.

I mentioned in a previous blog post that Open Arms is unique in the way that we combine three kinds of services – we are a home visiting organization, but unlike most if not all home visiting services we also will be there for the client’s birth as well. And through all of our work, a community focus is essential. So now you know a little more about the home visiting piece. We very much hope that our own work will contribute to the research around home visiting and show that it’s an effective model for long-term change and growth. We’ll be working on that piece in the next few years.

To close, here’s another very interesting article on the variety of home visiting service models out there.

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