Report Shows Critical Role of Home Visiting Programs Before, During, and After Pandemic

Nisa Hussain

Report Shows Critical Role of Home Visiting Programs Before, During, and After Pandemic 

by Nisa Hussain, Early Childhood Program Associate, DC Action for Children

We are pleased to announce the release of the 2019 Annual Report of the District of Columbia Home Visiting Council. While we are midway through a tumultuous 2020, and at the end of an unusually long budget season, this report provides an opportunity to reflect on the important work that home visiting programs do to support families, even when a pandemic is not raging. 

Between the concurrent crises of the COVID-19 pandemic that continues to bulldoze through every community and economy worldwide and the national reckoning with our country’s historic and ongoing racism, 2020 forces us to navigate a new set of challenges. Both major events have highlighted our failure to justly and adequately serve families across the country and in the District of Columbia. The pandemic has exposed deep health and economic disparities among Black and brown families in DC. Mass demonstrations against police brutality serve as inescapable reminders of the ongoing racism that exists within systems and in daily life. As we reflect on these inequities and simultaneously prepare for the District’s reopening, we recognize that home visiting has been quick to flex and adapt, steadfastly supporting families who have been hit hardest by current circumstances. 

Home visiting provides guidance, resources, and empowerment to families. DC’s home visiting programs primarily serve Black and brown families and focus on supporting them to overcome the barriers to critical health, education, and financial services. These programs play a unique role in helping families alleviate the heightened stressors caused by the pandemic and the racist systems that created some of these challenges in the first place. It is clear that home visiting, as a key component of the early childhood system, is an important strategy in addressing the racial inequities in DC. 

DC Action for Children serves as Chair of the DC Home Visiting Council, made up of home visiting providers, government agencies, advocates, and other partners. This year’s annual report serves as a resource for early childhood policymakers, providers, and stakeholders and documents the most recent information on DC’s home visiting programs and funding. In the report, you will find an overview of the home visiting landscape in the District, the progress and accomplishments of the DC Home Visiting Council, and up-to-date information around local and federal funding of each home visiting program. 

In total, 13 organizations implemented 16 home visiting programs and served about 1,347 children and families across the District in 2019. Fifteen of these programs were publicly funded, including nine programs receiving federal funding directly or as a subgrantee of a private entity receiving direct federal funds and seven receiving local funding or locally administered federal funding.

The DC Home Visiting Council, halfway through its 2018-2020 Strategic Plan, made great progress carrying out activities to strengthen the overall home visiting system. The report highlights the Council’s accomplishments. In 2019, the DC Home Visiting Council

  • Published an official definition of home visiting based on a consensus between local agencies, providers, and advocates. 
  • Identified workforce development opportunities, challenges, and needs through a widespread survey and conducted focus groups to better understand the experiences of the home visitor workforce. The findings will be shared in an upcoming Home Visitors Experiences Report later this year. 
  • Collaborated with DC Health to continue developing a coordinated, centralized intake system for home visiting. Home visiting programs were surveyed around current intake and referral processes and this data will inform the ongoing work. 
  • Developed aligned messaging to communicate the importance of home visiting as a key component of DC’s early childhood system to external stakeholders. 

The DC Home Visiting Council continues to work toward a cohesive and improved early childhood system through this coalition of providers, advocates, and government agencies. DC Action for Children will release additional publications and updates around the Home Visiting Council’s progress. 

Nisa Hussain is the Early Childhood Program Associate for DC Action for Children.