The Duke Endowment believes evidence-based interventions are among the most effective tools for improving the lives of children and their families. However, those programs can’t achieve full population-level impact unless all families and communities can participate in them.
With that in mind, the Endowment recently made a $1 million grant to the North Carolina Partnership for Children to help underwrite the creation of a centralized intake system for home visiting and parent education programs statewide. Rigorously evaluated home visiting and parent education programs positively impact parent-child relationships as well as family and child well-being. The goal is to make a range of parenting education programs available to all families.
Evidence-based programs such as Family Connects, Incredible Years, the Strengthening Families Program, Triple P and Parents as Teachers increase positive parenting practices, nurturing behavior and healthy communication among family members. These programs improve parental mental health and well-being by reducing maternal depression and improving parenting confidence and competency. Evidence-based home visiting and parenting education programs also improve behavior in young children, including increasing their altruism, empathy and desire to share while decreasing aggression and hyperactivity. Most importantly, these programs decrease the risk of child abuse and neglect.
The return on investment for these evidence-based programs is significant. For example, every dollar spent on Triple P brings a $7.78 return. And for every dollar supporting the Incredible Years program, there is a $5.65 return. These initiatives have proven to be an effective and efficient use of public and private investments.
Although other states have undertaken system-building efforts focused within early childhood, North Carolina is unique in employing a holistic, system-wide approach rather than just focusing on training and technical assistance. The Endowment’s investment builds on the efforts of others like the Winer Family Foundation, ChildTrust, the John Rex Endowment, and the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, among others.
A 2018 landscape analysis co-funded by the Endowment found that only about 1 percent of N.C. families eligible for home visiting services were participating. Ultimately, if North Carolina is to realize the goal and the outcomes promised by evidence-based home visiting and parent education programs, more families will need to take part. By allocating or reallocating our collective investments towards these programs, we will see improved well-being for all children.