Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version



Infants & Young Children 30:1 (January/March 2017), pp. 94–107.

doi: 10.1097/IYC.000000 0000000078


Copyright © 2017 Wolters Kluwer Health. Used by permission.


Home visitation programs are designed to provide comprehensive services that promote parents’ abilities to create stable, nurturing care environments for their children. In order for program goals to be met, parents must participate actively and be engaged with the programs’ mission. However, promoting engagement and participation are complex processes that have been understudied in research on home visitation. The current qualitative study examined how a national, federally funded home visitation program, Early Head Start (EHS), engaged and retained families so that potentially helpful preventative interventions could be delivered. The study also identified barriers to active engagement. Semistructured interviews were conducted with 10 parents of children enrolled in EHS. Findings suggest that engagement increased when EHS reduced social isolation by forming connections among parents and when the program focused on involving parents in fostering their children’s meeting of important developmental milestones. Barriers to engagement identified included logistical and organizational challenges as well as parental biases and differences in values and attitudes. Practice and policy recommendations for improving EHS and other programs that serve similar populations to increase engagement are discussed.

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