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Family Support using Home Visitors


Family Support using Home Visitors is a key strategy for assisting highly disadvantaged communities to break the cycle of inter-generational risk. Home visitors are trained to build a trusted relationship with referred families based on shared respect, and in this way put themselves in a strong position to support parents with information and advice on child care, development and parenting. The strategy is intensive as each home visitor may hold a case load of around twenty to forty families per year. The home visitors encourage use of health and social services and ensure that problems can be dealt with before crises place children at risk of harm or abuse.

Evaluation Evidence

Randomised trials in Australia and the US consistently support the benefits of home visiting programs. Trials completed with disadvantaged mothers showed positive outcomes such as improvements in the early family environment and increased length of breastfeeding (Kemp et al., 2011), and lower levels of child abuse (Olds et al., 1997). A 15-year follow-up of the US Pre-natal/Early Infancy Project found 46% fewer verified reports of child abuse, 44% fewer behavioural problems from alcohol and drug abuse among the mothers, and 69% fewer maternal arrests compared with a control group (Olds, et al., 1997).

Monitoring Recommendations

  • Advice on developing service contracts is available – see contact details below.
  • Boards should negotiate agreements to receive a series of service delivery reports, including information on:
    • number and characteristics of families that receive services;
    • number of visits and services delivered;
    • client satisfaction with services; and
    • mother’s mental and physical health.
  • A check that child physical and behaviour development is proceeding normally is an important process indicator of a successfully implemented strategy.

Implementation Tip

This program is unlikely to provide benefits if delivered to low-risk families.


Dr Lynn Kemp (Director)
Centre for Healthy Equity Training Research and Evaluation
University of NSW

(02) 9612 0779
Program details
Target Audience: 
Pre natal - 2 years
Target Risk Factors: 
  • Community disorganisation
  • Community transitions & mobility
  • Personal transitions & mobility
  • Poor family management and discipline
  • Family conflict
  • Family history of antisocial behaviour
  • Favourable attitudes to problem behaviour
Target Protective Factors: 
  • Community attachment
  • Community and family opportunities for prosocial involvement
  • Community and family rewards for prosocial involvement
  • Social skills
Community Indicators: 
  • Local area shows problem on AEDI
  • High rates child abuse and neglect
  • High rates of early developmental problems
  • Low income and poor housing
  • HIgh rates of teenage mothers
  • HIgh aggregation of risk factors from primary school