Just Released! Status Report on Home Visiting in DC

Would you believe that, until recently, there was no single resource for understanding what home visiting programs exist in DC, how many families they serve, how they are funded, and where they provide services? Last Friday, the Office of the District of Columbia Auditor released just that. DC Action for Children recently completed the Status Report on Home Visiting in the District of Columbia (HVSR) on behalf of the Auditor’s office. The report lays out the landscape of home visiting in DC and is meant to provide a foundation of knowledge for understanding and improving the District’s existing system.

Through a series of interviews and analysis of funding and program capacity information, one thing became clear: existing DC home visiting programs do not currently have the capacity to reach all of the families who could benefit most from home visiting. By our conservative estimate, home visiting in DC should be reaching about 6,300 families with young children. The most recent count of home visiting slots doesn’t come close to that number. When enrolled to their highest capacities, existing programs can only serve about a fifth of these families, leaving the majority of the need for home visiting in DC unmet. This is especially true in the communities that could most benefit from home visiting in Wards 7 and 8.

DC’s home visiting capacity problem is a result of:

  1. Non-secure, non-local funding

Funding for home visiting in DC comes mostly from federal sources that are time-limited and at risk for cuts. Local funding for home visiting is almost entirely supplementary, would not be enough to make up for federal funding cuts to home visiting, and is not sufficient to add the number of home visiting slots needed to serve all 6,300 families.

  1. Lack of capacity

There is a limited number of organizations in DC with the capacity and experience to run home visiting programs. Although there are organizations that may be able to effectively implement home visiting with additional technical assistance and support, these opportunities do not currently exist in DC.

  1. Limited workforce

Home visiting programs have difficulty recruiting and retaining home visitors to serve families. Home visitors are skilled, culturally competent family support workers whose knowledge and abilities allow them to be effective in helping families to meet the goals of their programs. However, the number of home visitors with these qualifications is inadequate, a problem that is exacerbated by limited career pathways available to them. Additionally, like many other careers in in the early care and education field, compensation is an obstacle to retaining those qualified workers that are hired.

DC’s home visiting system is strong in areas where many others have gaps (stay tuned for my next blog post on some of the strengths of DC’s home visiting system and how the HV Council is leveraging those strengths) and this is big advantage when it comes to tackling the work of increasing the city’s home visiting capacity. Prior to the release of the HVSR, the DC Home Visiting Council had already identified secure funding and career pathways for home visitors as needs for all home visiting programs in the District. The council had also begun work with home visiting programs to identify ways to ensure that home visitors are able to access the training and resources they need to best serve families. With these additional findings, the HV Council will also expand its efforts to identify opportunities to support the ability of providers to run quality home visiting programs with fidelity to evidence-based models and in compliance with funding requirements.

Understanding DC’s home visiting landscape is essential to the work of the HV Council, from recruiting appropriate members for the HV Council to getting a full picture of the systems-level needs that could help home visiting programs best serve families. It’s also useful for legislators looking to strengthen DC’s supports for families of young children by bolstering the city’s home visiting system. With this comprehensive document, we’re in a better place than we’ve ever been to strengthen home visiting to support the families who need it most.