Impact on Children in the Healthy Families America program
What is Healthy Families America’s impact on children? Our research says its both significant and positive! HFA nurtures the parent-child relationship to promote child well-being and prevent adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) especially child abuse and neglect. A child’s first relationships and earliest experiences lay the foundation for health and well-being across the entire lifespan, which is the core of an Infant Mental Health approach.
School Readiness and Adjustment
The largest long-term rigorous study of HFA to date (NY2)* shows impacts on academic success, with more children in gifted programs, fewer retained in first grade, and fewer receiving special education services. HFA also increased positive learning behaviors (works and plays cooperatively, follows oral directions and rules, and completes work on time). These results are consistent with other studies reporting early indicators of children who are ready to learn, including higher scores for HFA children compared to controls on tests of cognitive development (AK, CA) or developmental screening (GA, NY1) at age 1 or 2 years, and fewer behavioral problems (AK, CA).
Child Abuse and Neglect
Parents’ self-reports provide a powerful measure of child maltreatment; several rigorous studies show reductions in harsh parenting, neglect, physical abuse, and psychological abuse measured from one to seven years (AK, AZ2, CA, HI2, NY2), and increased use of non-violent discipline (NY2). Studies have also shown reduced rates of substantiated maltreatment (HI1, AZ3, OR, VA5), with strongest results for select subgroups, such as first-time moms who enrolled prenatally (NY2), moms who were not depressed (MA2), parents with prior CPS involvement (NY2), and those who received the recommended number of visits (FL4).
HFA improves birth outcomes, including low birth weight, a problem with tremendous public and personal costs. When moms enroll in HFA before the third trimester, multiple studies report positive impacts on birth weight (NY2, FL3, DC, NJ1, VA4), and fewer birth complications (VA2). HFA has also been shown to increase breastfeeding (NY1, NY2, MA1, OR, WI). HFA improves parents’ access to health care for their child by helping them: ◊ obtain insurance coverage (AK, NY2, OR), ◊ complete well-baby visits (CA, VA2, OR, WI), and, ◊ establish a medical home for routine and preventive health care needs (AK, AZ1, CA, FL3, FL4, HI2, IA, MD1, MD2, NY2, OR, TN, VA1, VA3, VA4, VT).
The Bottom Line
Healthy Families America has repeatedly demonstrated a positive impact on children. The program nurtures child development, including long-term improvements in children’s school performance, and prevents adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) such as child abuse and neglect. These outcomes have been shown in rigorous studies in multiple states.
NOTE: State abbreviations and numbers (i.e. AZ1) refer to evaluation studies; those in italics indicate Randomized Control Trials. For more information, see the HFA Evaluation Table.