The field of early childhood home visiting has two primary audiences with which it must communicate effectively in order to be successful in improving outcomes for vulnerable children and families. The first includes those who are essentially responsible for regulating and funding programs: policymakers and voters. Home visiting advocates and practitioners must be able to communicate the value of their services to this audience to ensure sustainable program funding and political support. The second audience consists of the families that are invited to enroll in programs. Because home visiting is voluntary, families that do not clearly understand how they would benefit from participation are more likely to decline.
The Pew Charitable Trusts set out to develop language that would most successfully communicate to each audience an explanation of home visiting services and providers, the programs’ achievements, and the types of families that can benefit. Recognizing that the audiences have different frames of reference and goals—policymakers are charged with supporting programs that are proved to have a positive impact on society, but parents are primarily focused on the welfare of their own families—we conducted the research in two phases. Working with a bipartisan team of national research firms—Public Opinion Strategies and the Mellman Group—Pew surveyed policymakers, voters, home visitors, and mothers who were eligible for or had participated in home visiting.
Surveys, interviews, and focus groups conducted in 2014 and 2015 revealed the distinctive language that works best with each audience about home visiting programs, as well as areas of overlap.
Most significantly, the research found that both voters and prospective participants respond negatively to the widely used name for these services: “home visiting.” Concepts such as “family support and coaching” were much better received.
Researchers found that voters were most receptive to:
Prospective participating mothers were most receptive to:
Prospective participating mothers who were unlikely to participate said they:
This brief looks at the survey findings in detail and offers the following recommendations to help advocates and service providers improve their outreach to key audiences and more effectively communicate the value of their services for children, families, and taxpayers: