Journal Issue: Home Visiting: Recent Program Evaluations Volume 9 Number 1 Spring/Summer 1999
Who Received the Services?
Describing the people who participated in a program—both those designated as eligible for the program and those who made use of available services—is important for improving the program, for interpreting the results of evaluations, and for making judgments about who should receive services in the future.
Typically, information about program participants begins with information about the eligible population: all mothers with newborns in the community, or just teens, first-time mothers, or low-income families, and so on. The studies in this journal issue essentially all focused on low-income families, although some programs were offered fairly universally to everyone within a geographic catchment area (for example, PAT), or screened everyone within that area for services, and then offered services to the most needy families (for example, Healthy Families America [HFA] and Hawaii Healthy Start). Although not all of the programs reported information about this issue, those that did (for example, CCDP, Hawaii Healthy Start, and the Nurse Home Visitation Program) suggested that perhaps 10% to 25% of families who are invited to enroll in services refuse to do so.
The next step is to describe who actually received services. The evaluations of HIPPY, Hawaii Healthy Start, and HFA suggest that some types of families are more likely than others either to use some aspects of the programs or to continue participation.
If understood, these differences can suggest program improvements. For example, the article by Baker, Piotrkowski, and Brooks-Gunn in this journal issue suggests that the HIPPY model should be extended so that programs offer services to overcome barriers that prevent families from taking advantage of existing services. Policymakers can use this information to judge whether a program, when extended to a new community, is likely to have the same effects. And evaluators can use information about program enrollment and participation to explain changes that the program created (or, perhaps, failed to create) among different groups of participants.