On April 13, 2017 Dr. Cynthia Osborne, Director of the Child and Family Research Partnership (CFRP) at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin, provided expert testimony (video below) at a Congressional Briefing in Washington, D.C. on the growing evidence of the importance of fathers in early childhood intervention home visiting programs. The Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program is being considered for re-authorization by the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee.
Home visiting programs have rapidly expanded across the country as an evidence-based policy choice for supporting families with young children. They provide structured visits by trained professionals and paraprofessionals to high-risk parents who are pregnant or have young children.
Fathers play a crucial role in child development, but historically, social programs aimed at poverty alleviation, health, and parenting have been geared almost exclusively toward mothers and children. For the last five years, Dr. Osborne has led the team at CFRP in conducting multiple evaluations of the MIECHV-funded Texas Home Visiting (THV) program, the largest program in the country, including two evaluations focused specifically on father involvement. Highlights of the findings:
- Multiple barriers (e.g., work schedules) often prevent fathers from participating in home visits, but fathers engage with home visiting programs in other ways including attending other program activities, completing homework or practicing lessons with the mother and child, or asking mothers about the visit.
- Fathers value home visiting programs and cite their child’s improved school readiness and health outcomes as being particularly important.
- Program staff can be trained to increase father participation including specifically inviting fathers to visits and program events, and being flexible with the timing and location of home visits to accommodate fathers’ work schedules.
- Father participation in home visiting programs is positively linked to family retention, which provides both parents increased opportunity to benefit from the program. Families in which fathers have participated in at least one home visit stay in the program over six months longer than families in which fathers never participate, controlling for family, program, and community factors.
Watch Dr. Osborne sharing expert testimony during the Congressional Briefing: