Placing nurses in children’s homes from birth until age 2 enhances parenting skills and the home learning environment for families experiencing adversity.
In Australia, one in five children are born into disadvantage, and by the time they start school, it can be challenging to bridge the gaps that have developed between them and other children their age.
This gap can have long-lasting and serious effects on the health, wellbeing, development, and life opportunities of children and the adults they become.
What is nurse-home visiting?
The right@home nurse home visiting program places nurses in children’s homes from birth to two years old, on a regular basis, to support mothers experiencing adversity to develop parenting skills and promote family wellbeing and child development.
The nurse home visits were offered via the child and family health service – an existing universal system of health care.
What did the research find?
Researchers followed up with those who received the program and those who received usual care – also known as the control group – and found strong evidence of the program benefit.
Mothers who participated in right@home until their babies turned 2 years old reported significant improvements in parent care skills, responsivity as parents, and the home learning environment.
For example, mothers reported more regular child bed times, warmer and less hostile parenting and more safe home environments.
Children had more opportunities for learning with their parents, daily stimulation, and more diverse social interactions with other adults.
What did right@home do?
The right@home nurse home visiting program recruited 722 pregnant women at risk of adversity, from antenatal clinics at 10 hospitals across the states of Victoria and Tasmania between April 2013 and August 2014.
Women and families who participated in the program were offered 25 extra nurse home visits from pregnancy until their babies turned 2 years old.
right@home is based on the Maternal Early Childhood Sustained Home-visiting (MECSH) program and incorporated additional modules. The additional modules focused on:
- Parent care – supports parents with their children’s sleeping and eating, and keeping the house safe
- Parent responsivity – emotional interactions between parent and child and language development
- Home learning environment – parents to introduce educational play, regular reading and other learning activities in the home.
Mothers who were not in the program continued to receive access to usual care offered by the universal health service.
What’s next for right@home?
The families involved with right@home continue to be followed up annually until their children turn eight (funding dependent) to identify if right@home has any long-term effects on family wellbeing, learning and development by the time children start school.
Results so far indicate a positive trend.
The right@home research partnership
right@home is a research collaboration between the Centre for Community Child Health (CCCH), which is a department of The Royal Children’s Hospital and a research group of Murdoch Children’s Research Institute; the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY) and the Translational Research and Social Innovation (TReSI) Group at Western Sydney University. The research lead investigator is Professor Sharon Goldfeld.