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A critical Lifeline for Children and families

Blog by the Early Childhood Home Visiting Alliance.

Antenatal to five is the most critical period in a child’s life and vital for development over the life course. The pace of growth and learning is unequalled with the negative effects of child poverty and deprivation lasting a lifetime.  The right support at the right time supports parent-child bonding, infant wellbeing and positive developmental outcomes.  

Early childhood home visiting is a proven service delivery strategy that helps children and families thrive. It connects parents with a Home Visitor who guides them through those precious early stages of raising a family. 

Established in November 2020, the Home Visiting Alliance is a collaboration of five Irish evidence-based early childhood home visiting programmes: Community Mothers, Infant Mental Health, Lifestart, ParentChild+ and Preparing for Life. Together, we represent the collective national voice of early childhood home visiting in Ireland. Annually, we provide 64,000 visits to 4,500 children aged 0-5 years in Ireland.

An essential local peer-led community lifeline, particularly during Covid-19, our home visiting programmes address developmental delays, educational disadvantage, parental isolation and poor mental health. A continuum of support is provided with first-time parents and families who are socially isolated and experiencing challenging circumstances prioritized.  Research, including multiple RCTs and other evaluations, has found significant improvements in child health, well-being, and school readiness and parent self-sufficiency. 

In 2020, 4m children were born across the EU with 1m at risk of some form of poverty. Home visiting addresses intergenerational poverty and educational inequalities by helping vulnerable children meet their key developmental milestones and start school ready for success in education. We believe that home visiting needs to be an integral element of the EU Pillar of Social Rights and EU Child Guarantee Scheme to combat poverty and social exclusion amongst the EU’s most disadvantaged children.

Chronic stress and trauma have a significant negative impact on the developing brain. It reduces parents’ capacity to support child development.  The new social reality post Covid requires high-quality home-visiting programmes across Europe that addresses post-pandemic health risks and stress disorders; while continuing to develop the parental skills required for children to reach their developmental milestones. It is imperative that national governments across the EU include home visiting in their early intervention and prevention strategies in this post pandemic era. 

For more information on the Irish Home Visiting Alliance, please contact Dr Josephine Bleach, Chair by email josephine.bleach@ncirl.ie

You can also watch the recent webinar on Early Childhood Home Visiting – Irish, European and US perspectives:

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