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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

ODU's Early Childhood Policy Center Suggests How Virginia Can Become a Nationwide Model for Home Visitation Programs

By Brendan O'Hallarn

A new report by Old Dominion University's Virginia Early Childhood Policy Center (VECPC) suggests a collaborative approach could more effectively use precious resources available in the Commonwealth of Virginia's diverse array of home visitation programs.

The report, authored by VECPC co-directors Angela Eckhoff Pete Baker and Rebecca John, along with Katrina Miller-Stevens, formerly of the School of Public Service in the Strome College of Business, indicates that Virginia can become a national model through better coordination among stakeholders in the home visitation system.

"The report actually envisions what such a collaboration effort would look like," said Eckoff, associate professor of teaching and learning in Old Dominion's Darden College of Education.

Home visitation programs represent a well-established method of delivering services for at-risk families with children up to age five. They provide an essential component of a comprehensive early childhood support system, offering information, risk assessment, health programming and parenting support interventions.

Nationally, Virginia is well-known for its Home Visiting Consortium (HVC), which was established in 2006, and held in high regard nationally as a model of home visitation programming.

To build on this, the VECPC statewide report provides recommendations dealing with ways in which agencies can better collaborate.

"A lot of what we had done in the past few years is attempting to determine how fragmented our system is," Eckhoff said. "The answer is very," added Baker, a lecturer of teaching and learning in ODU's College of Continuing Education and Professional Development. "So this report was created to find out where the gaps are in connecting the different actors working in home visitation."

Building on the work of the HVC, the Old Dominion researchers' report suggests a model for collaboration between public and private-sector stakeholders for home visitations in all states, to help promote the sustainability of these needed programs by more efficiently using resources.

"Virginia's foresight into the establishment of the Home Visiting Consortium in 2006 makes the Commonwealth a natural model for other states as they work to develop a comprehensive network for home visitation programs," Baker said.

Eckhoff added that by accelerating collaboration efforts, the home visitation programs can do more for Virginia's young families. "It's our hope that a collaborative approach to funding across public and private sectors could expand home visitation programs, and maximize their impact," she said.

In conclusion, the report authors note that creating a centralized administrative structure would help with efforts to grow a more comprehensive home visitation program as well as orchestrating coordination and collaboration efforts between service providers.

This systematic approach could better meet community needs and provide improved training and retention of valuable home visitation personnel.

Old Dominion University's Virginia Early Childhood Policy Center was created in 2013 with a mission of developing materials and conducting original research that leads to policy changes in early childhood education in the Commonwealth.

The center, the only one of its kind in Virginia, also provides useful information to parents, communities, schools and others directly involved with the well-being of young children. It is unique in the comprehensive approach it brings to early childhood issues, focused on education, health, family support services and special populations.

For more information, see the VECPC website.

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