Dedicated to the prevention of child abuse and neglect, the Massachusetts Children's Trust Fund, or MCTF, offers a variety of resources to help families provide healthy, nurturing homes for their children.
For more than a decade, the Trust Fund has promoted high-quality services for the thousands of new and expectant parents participating in the Healthy Families Massachusetts, or HFM, home visiting program.
In 2001, MCTF pioneered an innovation in evidence-based home visiting when it began building data collection and analysis capacity. The data system supports service delivery, facilitates performance and outcome monitoring, fosters quality improvement, and helps cultivate political support for home visiting services.
This case study examines the process that the Trust Fund and Healthy Families Massachusetts went through, the choices they made, and the challenges they encountered.
Overall, this study found that objective performance and outcome data are at the heart of efforts to document and improve the effectiveness of home visiting services. The findings detailed in the brief include:
- Home visiting programs and individual home visitors need timely, accurate data on families served and services provided.
- Performance and outcome data are most valuable when they can be shared across program sites and service models.
- Collection and analysis of performance data should be paired with robust, rigorous independent evaluation to ensure that outcomes are monitored and findings inform program improvement.
- Data collection related to participating families and services should be part of a broader vision for comprehensive early childhood information systems.
The experiences of HFM suggest that dedicated resources and focused attention from program leaders and home visitors are critically important to the development of useful data systems and evaluation efforts. These investments are needed to support program management and to document and improve child and family outcomes.
Understanding HFM's data development efforts can help other states devise and implement robust home visitation data systems that support continuous quality improvement, meet state and federal requirements, and ensure services are delivering real results for children, families, and taxpayers.