In 2010, the federal Affordable Care Act initiated the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program. This program provides federal funding to states so they can provide home visiting programs built on evidence-based models. MIECHV grants support programs that serve vulnerable pregnant mothers and parents and promote the physical and mental health development of infants and children.
If you’re being funded by a MIECHV grant, ensuring your program outcomes reflect those benchmarks is critical to success. Here are four tips for making sure your program is hitting these vital benchmarks.
MIECHV emphasizes and supports evidence-based family support programs and requires states to spend the bulk of funds on national program models that have already demonstrated their effectiveness against rigorous criteria. Each national program model aims to serve at-risk families, such as those with low incomes. However, each focuses on different types of risk. For example, Nurse-Family Partnership targets first-time mothers, Healthy Families America focuses on families at risk of child maltreatment or with behavioral health issues, and Early Head Start seeks to serve a broad group of low-income families.
Selecting a model should begin with a clear understanding of the priorities of the individual communities where it will be implemented. Spend time researching various program models under consideration, exploring the program’s history and the evidence of effectiveness.
Identify program models that prioritize the same outcomes and risks that you’ve identified as important to the families the program will serve. This ensures a strong foundation for success and ensures that your evaluation and data collection will align with MIECHV requirements and the existing program research for your model.
The MIECHV funding requirements have given grantees discretion to define improvement in each benchmark area in terms that are meaningful for their individual programs. This allows agencies to measure and report outcomes to reflect individual contexts and different stages of implementation.
Invest time in this process, and take advantage of the support and technical assistance provided by MIECHV. For instance, the Design Options for Home Visiting Evaluation (DOHVE) project provides an opportunity to understand and strengthen evidence-based home visiting services through rigorous evaluation, performance monitoring and data-driven decision-making.
Using appropriate indicators and measurement tools is necessary to accurately and consistently collect evidence of successful program results. In addition, the findings resulting from these indicators will inform subsequent action to continuously improve your program.
As you walk through this process, remember that it is important to identify what is being measured and define how it will be measured. Some metrics may require a specific measurement tool. For example, screening program participants for signs of depression might require a measurement tool like the Beck Inventory or the Edinburgh Scale. Make sure your data collection plan includes the people responsible for collecting the data, the collection frequency, data sources and the method to be utilized.
Ideally, grantees should explore user-friendly systems that can handle the capacity required, allow for measurement of the given constructs and other important measures related to the benchmark areas and be accessible to all who will be using it.
Even if your agency or program has already implemented software systems, it’s vital to take the time to evaluate its capacity to capture the necessary indicators and outcomes. Social Solutions makes software that allows programs to seamlessly integrate case and program management with data collection, analysis and reporting.
When it comes to technology systems, seamless simplicity is about more than just having a user-friendly system. The better integrated your data collection system is with front-line operations, the more reliable it will be in capturing necessary measurements and providing accessible analysis and reporting. At the end of the day, that accessibility will allow for ongoing evaluation and improvement throughout the course of the program, not just during “grant report season.”
While the program activities are at the heart of your efforts, think of your implementation system as the link between intended and actual service delivery.
Demonstrating improvement for each of the MIECHV benchmarks is a vital funding requirement for home visiting programs. But, more importantly, these benchmarks are based on extensive, evidence-based approaches to improving the physical and mental health development of infants and children.
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