3.3 Effectiveness of the Home-Based Option


What Is It?

The Home Visitor’s Handbook (see Chapter 3, "What Makes Home Visiting So Effective?") describes the following benefits of the home-based option. As a supervisor, you are part of a team comprising your director, service area managers, home visitors, mental health consultant, colleagues, and community partners. Together, you support home visitors in ensuring that children and families receive the highest quality services possible.

Meeting in a family’s home provides home visitors opportunities to get to know families intimately. This sets the stage for close, trusting relationships—critical to any program designed to support children and their families.

Parents and home visitors are “rooted in culture” and bring their personal beliefs, values, and assumptions about child rearing to their interactions with children. Home visiting can provide opportunities to integrate those beliefs and values into the work the home visitor and family do together.

By engaging in warm, accepting relationships with parents, home visitors support a strong and secure relationship between the parent and child. Home visitors help parents become more knowledgeable about child development, and more attuned and responsive to their child. The secure relationship between young children and their families creates the foundation for the development of a healthy brain. The home environment allows home visitors to create rich learning opportunities that build on the family’s everyday routines. Home visitors support the family’s efforts to provide a safe, healthy environment and maintain the schedule of well-child care. Additionally, home visitors individualize each visit, providing culturally and linguistically responsive services.

For many families, the home environment provides the ideal place to focus on child development, family education, and family support. The home-based option provides a unique opportunity to provide services to

  • families who do not need or want center-based care or family child care;
  • families who want support for their parenting and their child’s learning and development as a unit in their home;
  • families who are experiencing life circumstances that prevent them from participating in more structured settings or are challenged by transportation; and
  • families who live in rural or remote communities where center-based or family child care services are not feasible.

Some programs are able to be flexible and offer services during nontraditional hours to families who work or go to school.

In addition to weekly home visits, you offer twice monthly socializations that bring families together to reduce isolation and share experiences, as well as connect them to other staff in the program.

To demonstrate the effectiveness of home-based care, the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE) reports findings of studies of children who were or had been in home-based care:

  • When children were 24 months old, parents “provided significantly more stimulating home environments, participated in more bedtime reading, and had greater knowledge of child development1” (compared to control group parents2).
  • When children were 36 months old, parents “were more supportive during play and continued to report less parenting stress.”3
  • “Compared to control group children, children at 24 months showed stronger vocabulary development. At 36 months old, these program children more strongly engaged their parents during play, a measure of social-emotional development.”4
  • When home-based programs fully implemented the HSPPS, “there were also positive impacts on child cognitive and language development at 36 months.”5

  1. Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE), Research to Practice: Early Head Start Home-Based Services – Early Head Start Research and Evaluation Project (Washington, DC: Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, 2006), 1, http://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/opre/homebase_services.pdf

  2. Ibid. 

  3. Ibid. 

  4. Ibid. 

  5. Ibid. 

Learn More

This webcast is designed to help viewers develop an increased understanding of how the Early Head Start home-based program option can help programs expand opportunities for low-income families with very young children, increase access to services, and enhance program quality.


This website offers information about the effectiveness of the Early Head Start home-based option.


This checklist defines the unique nature of the home-based program option and its effectiveness and helps Early Head Start Program directors assess whether the Head Start home-based program option is appropriate for the community they serve. By addressing those questions they will need to answer in order to reach the best decision.