Archive for the ‘home visiting’ Category

Director Cynthia Osborne Provides Expert Testimony on Capitol Hill on Fathers in Home Visiting

April 13, 2017early childhood, fathers, home visiting, osborne

CynthiaOsborne_cropwebDr. Cynthia Osborne, Director of the Child and Family Research Partnership (CFRP) at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin, provides expert testimony at a Congressional Briefing today in Washington, D.C. on the growing evidence of the importance of fathers in early childhood intervention home visiting programs. The Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program is being considered for re-authorization by the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee.

Home visiting programs have rapidly expanded across the country as an evidence-based policy choice for supporting families with young children. They provide structured visits by trained professionals and paraprofessionals to high-risk parents who are pregnant or have young children.

Fathers play a crucial role in child development, but historically, social programs aimed at poverty alleviation, health, and parenting have been geared almost exclusively toward mothers and children. For the last five years, Dr. Osborne has led the team at CFRP in conducting multiple evaluations of the MIECHV-funded Texas Home Visiting (THV) program, the largest program in the country, including two evaluations focused specifically on father involvement. Highlights of the findings:

  • Multiple barriers (e.g., work schedules) often prevent fathers from participating in home visits, but fathers engage with home visiting programs in other ways including attending other program activities, completing homework or practicing lessons with the mother and child, or asking mothers about the visit.
  • Fathers value home visiting programs and cite their child’s improved school readiness and health outcomes as being particularly important.
  • Program staff can be trained to increase father participation including specifically inviting fathers to visits and program events, and being flexible with the timing and location of home visits to accommodate fathers’ work schedules.
  • Father participation in home visiting programs is positively linked to family retention, which provides both parents increased opportunity to benefit from the program. Families in which fathers have participated in at least one home visit stay in the program over six months longer than families in which fathers never participate, controlling for family, program, and community factors.

The Child and Family Research Partnership is an independent, nonpartisan research center at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin which is dedicated to strengthening families and enhancing public policy through rigorous research. Click for more on CFRP’s Home Visiting and Fatherhood research.

Cynthia_Ways & Means_rectangle

To arrange an interview with Dr. Osborne, please contact Wendy Gonzales at or 512-471-8921.

Osborne Paper “Home Visiting Program: Four Evidence-Based Lessons for Policymakers”

February 8, 2017early childhood, home visiting, osborne

Federal and state policymakers and philanthropies are increasingly emphasizing the use of evidence to drive policy decisions. One of the areas in the forefront of evidence-based policymaking is early childhood intervention strategy, home visiting.

As lead evaluator of the Texas Home Visiting (THV) program, the largest home visiting program in the country, serving over 6,500 families in 13 diverse communities across the state, Dr. Osborne writes of the lessons learned and limits of “evidence-based” policymaking in Home Visiting Program: Four Evidence-Based Lessons for Policymakers.

Dr. Osborne and her paper are being recognized at the LBJ School of Public Affairs’ 2017 Innovation Bound annual celebration of the works of its distinguished faculty.

Dr. Cynthia Osborne is a policy professor at the The University of Texas at Austin LBJ School of Public Affairs and the director of both the Center for Health and Social Policy and the Child and Family Research Partnership. She has extensive experience conducting long-term evaluations of state and national programs, with the aim of helping organizations understand what works and why, and how to ensure sustainable implementation of effective policies.

For more about our work on home visiting, go to


The full paper is available from the Behavioral Science & Policy Association


Home visiting programs (HVPs) aim to help low-income parents enhance their parenting skills and improve a host of early health and developmental outcomes for young children. Over the past five decades, numerous HVP models have been developed and implemented, albeit with modest or even null results, according to meta-analyses and comprehensive reviews. In 2010, in an effort to advance HVPs’ effectiveness, federal lawmakers vastly expanded funding for HVPs with certain caveats, one being the requirement that the majority of programs be evidence based. Although the new requirement is a policy win, this review presents four main areas that must be addressed and improved upon if this new funding effort is to maximize positive outcomes. Pointedly, HVPs should have built-in flexibility for states to match the specific or unique needs of a family to a program model that has demonstrated effectiveness in meeting those specific needs. Further, program developers should clearly demonstrate what it is specifically about their model that works, in what context, and for whom. Ultimately, not unlike personalized medicine, state policymakers should target delivery of the right HVP model to the right family at the right time.

Pediatricians on the Frontlines of Poverty

March 10, 2016early childhood, home visiting, toxic_stress

When taking your child to the doctor for a well-child visit, the appointment normally includes a physical exam, checking your child’s growth and development, vaccinations, and asking your doctor any questions you may have. Now, the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) is recommending that doctors add another component to these visits: screening for poverty.

In 2014, 21.1 percent of children in the U.S. (under 18 years old) lived in poverty.[1] This number was even higher for young children under the age of five (23.8%).[2] Furthermore, 42.9 percent of all U.S. children were living “in households designated as poor, near poor, or low-income” (i.e., households with incomes up to 200% of the Federal Poverty Line).[3]

These families often struggle to make ends meet and may be just one crisis away from falling into poverty. An expansive body of research has identified the potential detrimental effects of poverty on children. As the new AAP policy statement highlights, poverty, especially early in life or as experienced for an extended period of time, is associated with increased risks of adverse health, developmental, and social and behavioral outcomes over the course of a child’s life.[3]

“The impact that poverty has on physiology in childhood is pervasive,” says Dr. Racine, chair of the AAP Poverty and Child Health Leadership Work Group

As a part of their effort to reduce poverty and its negative effects on child health, the AAP has made new recommendations for pediatricians that feature opportunities for policy advocacy and community practice, including (but not limited to):

  • Advocating for continued investment in evidence-based programs that assist both children and their families, including quality early childhood programs like home visiting, two-generation strategies, child and maternal health programs, and programs that address needs in community infrastructure, among others;
  • Creating a “medical home” in which medical team members understand the challenges faced by poor families and are “sensitive to the needs of families living in poverty;”
  • Screening for “risk factors within social determinants of health during patient encounters” by asking patients and family members if they have unmet basic needs;
  • Collaborating with and linking families to early interventions and community partners who can help address families’ needs; and
  • Identifying “family strengths and protective factors,” such as “cohesion, humor, support networks, skills, and spiritual and cultural beliefs,” to empower families to use these strengths to address problems. [3]

Given the share of children living in or near poverty, the AAP’s recommendations have the potential to help curb the negative effects of poverty in many children’s lives. A Washington Post article from earlier this week noted that a recent randomized controlled trial “showed that when clinicians screen for social determinants like unmet basic needs, their patients received more community resources than controls.”[4]

In publishing these recommendations, the AAP has taken an important step in recognizing the negative impacts of poverty on our society, and the important link a pediatrician is for a family to other resources and supports in their community.

Related Resources: CFRP Toxic Stress 101 Storify,  CFRP Toxic Stress infographic, Home Visiting in Texas 




  1. DeNavas-Walt, C. & Proctor, B. D. (2015). Income and poverty in the United States: 2014. U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved from
  2. U.S. Census Bureau (2015). POV01. Age and sex of all people, family members and unrelated individuals iterated by income-to-poverty ratio and race. Retrieved from
  3. AAP Council on Community Pediatrics (2016). Poverty and child health in the United States. Pediatrics, 137(4), 1-14.
  4. Blakemore, E. (2016, March 9). Doctors should screen for poverty during child-wellness visits, American Academy of Pediatrics recommends. The Washington Post. Retrieved from


CFRP Event – Texas Fatherhood Summit: Building the Evidence Base for Fatherhood Programs on Feb. 3

January 14, 2016events, fathers, home visiting, mothers, paternity


UPDATE: Find all post-event links and resources at



Wednesday, February 3, 2016 – The University of Texas at Austin, AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center


The Child and Family Research Partnership at The University of Texas at Austin’s LBJ School of Public Affairs and the Texas DFPS’ Prevention and Early Intervention division are hosting the “Texas Fatherhood Summit: Building the Evidence Base for Fatherhood Programs” in Austin, Texas. The Summit brings together researchers, policymakers, and practitioners in the field of fatherhood to exchange ideas and assess the state of fatherhood programs throughout the country.

We are honored to have national fatherhood expert Dr. Ronald Mincy as our keynote speaker. Dr. Mincy is the Director of the Center for Research on Fathers, Children and Family Well-Being and Social Policy Professor at Columbia University. He will speak on the importance of fathers in their children’s lives and why research in this field is so critical. Dr. Cynthia Osborne, Director of The University of Texas at Austin’s Child and Family Research Partnership will also present an overview of the strategies for evaluating and building a comprehensive evidence base.

The Summit will include a series of panels for perspectives from the national, state, and provider levels on what the evidence says about fatherhood programs and the impact on future policy decisions. The top national fatherhood program evaluators from Mathematica, MDRC, and the Fatherhood Research and Practice Network (FRPN) will talk about what questions they are trying to answer about fathers and their preliminary findings. Policy leaders from state agencies from Texas will discuss the landscape of their state-wide fatherhood initiatives as examples for the nation. Then, fatherhood program providers will share their invaluable work of supporting fathers in the communities.







7:30am – 8:45am Breakfast Provided
7:30am – 9:00am Check-In
9:00am – 10:15am Introduction:
  • Cynthia Osborne, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Director The University of Texas at Austin’s Child and Family Research Partnership
  • Sasha Rasco, Director of Texas Department of Family and Protective Services’ Prevention and Early Intervention

Keynote Speaker:

  • Ron Mincy, Ph.D., Maurice V. Russell Professor of Social Policy and Social Work Practice at the Columbia University School of Social Work, and a co-principal investigator of the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study

10:15am-10:30amBreak10:30am – 12 noonIntroduction to Fatherhood Program Research:

  • Cynthia Osborne, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Director The University of Texas at Austin’s Child and Family Research Partnership

National Panel on Fatherhood Research and Evaluation:

  • Moderated by Cynthia Osborne, Ph.D.
  • Robin Dion, Senior Fellow at Mathematica Policy Research
  • Virginia Knox, Ph.D., Director of Families and Children at MDRC
  • Jessica Pearson, Ph.D., Co-Director of the Fatherhood Research and Practice Network and Director of the Center for Policy Research

12:00pm – 1:00pmLunch Provided1:00pm  – 2:45pmState Panel on Investing in Texas Fathers:

  • Moderated by Sasha Rasco, Director of Texas Department of Family and Protective Services’ Prevention and Early Intervention
  • Krista Del Gallo, Policy Manager at the Texas Council on Family Violence
  • Noelita Lugo, Director of Family Initiatives at the Texas Office of the Attorney General
  • Nicole Murry, Healthy Texas Babies Nurse Consultant at the Texas Department of State Health Services
  • Kenneth Thompson, Fatherhood Program Specialist at the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services

2:45pm-3:00pmBreak3:00pm – 4:30pmProvider Panel on Supporting Fathers in the Communities:

  • Moderated by Michael Hayes, Senior Programs Manager at the Administration for Children and Families’ Office of Child Support Enforcement
  • Russell Booth, Fatherhood EFFECT Educator at the Child Crisis Center of El Paso
  • Martin Castaneda, Fatherhood Engagement Coordinator at UT Permian Basin’s Healthy Outcomes through Prevention and Early Support (HOPES)
  • Nakia Edwards, Assistant Director of Workforce and Family Strengthening at AVANCE Houston
  • Tommy Jordan, Executive Director at NewDay Services for Children and Families

4:30pm – 5:00pmBuilding the Evidence Base in Texas:

  • Cynthia Osborne, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Director The University of Texas at Austin’s Child and Family Research Partnership

5:00pm – 6:00pmNetworking Reception (Tejas Dining Room)


EVENT HASHTAGS - We encourage everyone to tweet now and during the Summit with the event hashtags: #TXdads2016 #fatherhood. You can start now and let people know you’re coming – follow/tag the Child and Family Research Partnership at @CFRPlbj and we’ll retweet you!

SUMMIT LOCATION AND ROOM - The Summit, including breakfast and lunch, will be held in the Ballroom/Salon C on the third floor of conference side of the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center (1900 University Avenue, Austin, TX 78705). Click here for the Google Map link to AT&T. Breakfast and check-in begin at 7:30am, and the program begins at 9:00am.

PARKING - Free on-site event parking will be provided – you must park in the parking garage at AT&T. The AT&T parking garage entrance is on the north side of the building off W. 20th Street (see photo below). Please keep your paper ticket, and at check-in, it can be exchanged for a free parking pass to be used when you exit. [Please Note: Free parking passes are provided only for parking on-site at AT&T. Attendees are responsible for parking off-site in nearby garages.]

For full details and registration, go to

Please contact  if you have questions.


The Home Visitor-Mother Relationship is Key to Program Success

November 24, 2015home visiting, mothers

Home visiting programs match families with para-professionals, known as home visitors, who visit families in their home during pregnancy and throughout early childhood. Home visitors provide information on building supportive home environments, encourage positive parenting practices, and help parent’s access resources that improve child and family outcomes.

The success of home visiting programs is often measured by positive long-term outcomes such as improved school readiness, maternal and child health, and decreases in family violence.  These outcomes strengthen families while also producing cost-savings due to reductions in remedial education, healthcare costs, and by improving the self-sufficiency of families.[1]

“We have benefited greatly from this program. Our [home visitor] is extremely helpful and always there to lend a hand, be-it to inform me on what to expect from my child’s growing milestones and to listen to my concerns and just there for emotional support.”— THV Mother

The Child and Family Research Partnership’s analysis of qualitative and quantitative data collected from both mothers and home visitors in the Texas Home Visiting (THV) program, shows that other, more immediate positive outcomes are associated with program participation, mostly as a result of a mother’s relationship with her home visitor.

CFRP surveyed approximately 1,700 mothers participating in the statewide THV program to examine families’ experiences in home visiting programs, including the relationship between mothers and home visitors. The majority of mothers surveyed strongly agree that their home visitor provides them with useful information (81.5%), can be trusted with personal information (79.2%), and arrives on time when they have an appointment (78.3%). A smaller, but still substantial share of mothers also strongly agree that their home visitor is a source of emotional support (63.8%).

Furthermore, by understanding a family’s needs, the home visitor becomes a gateway to community resources that address pressing needs, from parent-centered services such as education and employment, to child-centered services such as Early Childhood Intervention and Pre-K. More than three-quarters (78%) of mothers report gaining access to resources in their community as a reason for participating in a home visiting program (43.6% strongly agree and 34.4% agree).  Additionally, 75 percent of mothers strongly agree that their home visitor helps them find resources when they have a need.  See Figure 1.

Figure 1. Mothers’ Reports on Their Home Visitor


Mothers value their home visitor not only as a provider of important information, but also as a link to community resources.  These findings suggest that mothers value their relationships with home visitors across personal, educational, and emotional domains.

“My home-visitor is so special. She has helped me to become a better mother to my son. I learn from her all the time. I consider her a friend and I am able to confide in her and rely on her to help me find resources. I love my nurse and I couldn't imagine going through my pregnancy without her. She gives me encouragement and emotional support.”— THV Mother

[1] Schmit, S., Schott, L., Pavetti, L., and Matthews, H. (2015) Effective, Evidence-Based Home Visiting Programs in Every State at Risk if Congress Does Not Extend Funding. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. (Accessed 09/21/2015)


CFRP at the 2015 APPAM Fall Research Conference

November 10, 2015cfrp, fathers, home visiting, osborne

appam2.fwThe APPAM Fall Research Conference is the main conference of the year for scholars from around the world and is this week in Miami. Attendees convene to both present and learn about the most current research on policy and management issues from 14 different policy areas. This year’s conference program is centered around the theme, “The Golden Age of Evidence-Based Policy.”

CFRP director Cynthia Osborne will be presenting her papers throughout the conference as well as participating in events as an elected member of the APPAM Policy Council:

Panel 11/12/15 – How Can We Expand Home Visiting to Engage Dads? Strategies, Enhancements, and Early Program Impacts (8:30am, Merrick I)

  • Panel Paper – Engaging Fathers: Expanding the Scope of Evidence-Based Home Visiting Programs (Anna Lipton Galbraith, Cynthia Osborne, Jennifer Winter Craver and Ruy Manrique-Betanzos)

Panel 11/12/15 – Designing Evaluations to Strengthen Policy and Practice: Current Research on Evidence-Based Home Visiting Programs (10:15 am, Merrick I)

  • Panel Paper – Challenges of Serving and Retaining High-Risk Families in Evidence-Based Home Visiting Programs (Cynthia Osborne and Allison C. Dubin)

Panel 11/14/15 - Father Involvement: Trends, Implications, and Opportunities (8:30am, Merrick I)

  • Panel Paper – Exploring the Role of Fathers’ Birth Presence in Mothers’ Mental Health Outcomes (Daniel Dillon, Cynthia Osborne, and Holly Sexton)


Click for detailed conference schedule.

Follow the conference and CFRP on Twitter at #2015APPAM.


The Top 5 Benefits of Home Visiting Programs

June 1, 20155-things-list, early childhood, home visiting

Home visiting programs provide structured visits by trained professionals and paraprofessionals to high-risk parents who are pregnant or have young children. These programs support families by providing health check-ups, screenings, referrals, parenting advice, and guidance with navigating other programs and services in their community. The programs also monitor progress on children’s developmental milestones. Quality home visiting programs help parents provide safe and supportive environments for their children, and over time, families and home visitors build strong relationships that lead to lasting benefits for the entire family. There are numerous benefits for participants of Home Visiting Programs – click to see The Top 5 Benefits of Home Visiting.


CFRP at SRCD 2015

March 20, 2015cfrp, early childhood, home visiting

The Society for Research in Child Development is holding its biennial meeting this weekend in (not so sunny) Philadelphia. The event is an invaluable multidisciplinary forum for researchers to share and learn about the many facets of child development. CFRP’s Dr. Kaeley Bobbitt (Saturday) and Abby Lane (Friday) are there now presenting some great posters, and they would love to talk to you if you’re attending. Details are below.

Kaeley Bobbitt: From RCTs to the Real World: What Should be Expected when Taking Home Visiting Programs to Scale? 

Session: Sat., March 21, 12:30 to 1:45pm, Penn CC, 200 Level, Exhibit Hall A

Dr. Kaeley Bobbitt is a Senior Policy Associate at the Child and Family Research Partnership at The University of Texas at Austin’s LBJ School of Public Affairs. Dr. Bobbitt will discuss the validity of using RCTs as the “evidence” in evidence-based home visiting programs.

Dr. Bobbitt earned her Ph.D. in Human Development and Family Sciences at The University of Texas at Austin. Her research interests center around the development and well-being of children from low-income families. Outside of her graduate work, she has worked as a research assistant at the Yale Child Study Center and on the Texas KIDS COUNT project at the Center for Public Policy Priorities. Dr. Bobbitt is CFRP’s lead researcher on the Texas Home Visiting Program Evaluation and the Estimation of the Cost of Raising Children in Texas projects.

Abby Lane: Early Stressful Life Events and Child Behavioral Outcomes in Fragile Families 

Session: Fri., March 20, 2:25 to 3:40pm, Penn CC, 200 Level, Exhibit Hall A

Abby Lane is a Ph.D. student at The Universityof Texas at Austin’s LBJ School of Public Affairs and a Graduate Research Assistant at the Child and Family Research Partnership. Using data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, Ms. Lane will discuss the association between early occurrence of stressful life events (SLEs) and aggressive behavior for children at age 5.

Ms. Lane holds a Master’s of Public Policy from the George Washington University and a B.A. in political science from St. Olaf College. Prior to coming to UT, Abby worked as a policy fellow covering family economic security, education, and employment issues at the National Women’s Law Center in Washington, DC. Abby currently assists with the Texas Home Visiting Program Evaluation project at CFRP.

CFRP on MIECHV Webinar: Fathers and Home Visiting

March 12, 2015fathers, home visiting

030415CFRP Director Cynthia Osborne was asked to talk about the Texas home visiting evaluation on the Design Options for Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Evaluation (DOHVE) Evaluation Webinar Series on March 4, 2015. She spoke about one of several interventions aiming to enhance the home visiting programs, strategies to increase father participation.

Dr. Osborne answered several key questions:

  1. How do fathers participate in home visiting programs?
  2. What are the barriers to father participation?
  3. What program strategies are associated with higher levels of father participation?
  4. How do home visitor characteristics enhance and limit the effectiveness of father engagement strategies?
  5. How do family characteristics enhance and limit the effectiveness of father engagement strategies?

For the full presentation, please see below. See more on CFRP’s research on home visiting and father participation in home visiting.


Date: March 4, 2015
Event: Design Options for Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Evaluation (DOHVE) Evaluation Webinar Series
Title: Increasing Father Participation in Evidence-Based Home Visiting Programs
PresenterDr. Cynthia Osborne


5 Things You Should Know about Home Visiting in Texas: A Two-Generation Approach to Supporting Families

December 16, 20145-things-list, early childhood, home visiting

Home visiting programs have rapidly expanded across the country as an evidence-based policy choice for supporting families with young children. CFRP is currently conducting an ongoing program implementation evaluation of the Texas Home Visiting Program (THV) as well as two related, ongoing evaluations that focus on the factors that influence father participation in home visiting and the factors that influence the retention of families in home visiting programs. Click for 5 Things You Should Know about Home Visiting in Texas: A Two-Generation Approach to Supporting Families for an overview of what home visiting is and what it looks like in the state of Texas.

Post Event Wrap-up: Toxic Stress and Early Childhood

November 18, 2014cfrp, early childhood, events, home visiting, toxic_stress


Toxic Stress and Early Childhood: What Policy Makers and Funders Need to Know

Friday, November 14, 2014 – Texas State Capitol Auditorium & Legislative Conference Center

The Child and Family Research Partnership at The University of Texas at Austin’s LBJ School of Public Affairs, TexProtects, and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) co-hosted the event to inform policy makers, professionals, and academics about the impacts of early childhood adversity on physiological development.

Opening remarks were provided by Representative John Zerwas (Texas House of Representatives, District 28), and the the keynote speaker was Dr. Andrew Garner, one of the nation’s leading pediatric neuroscientists studying the effects of toxic stress on early brain development.

Sasha Rasco (Director of Prevention and Early Intervention and Contract Performance, DFPS), Sarah Abrahams (Director of Health Coordination and Consumer Services, HHSC), Madeline McClure (Executive Director, TexProtects), and Associate Professor and CFRP Director, Cynthia Osborne provided insights on the implications for Texas children and families.

Presentations from the event:

Related Resources:


Please contact if you have questions.

Two-Generation Approaches to Breaking the Cycle of Poverty

November 13, 2014early childhood, family instability, home visiting


The Annie E. Casey Foundation recently released a policy report calling for policymakers to focus on equipping both children and parents with the resources and skills they need to ensure the future success of today’s children. Though a Future of Children report cautions that the new wave of two-generation programs are still in their infancy, the theory behind the approach is strong and worthy of support and further research.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation report cites several types of existing programs that provide a platform for the two-generation approach, including home visiting. Home visitors meet monthly or sometimes weekly with families in their home. The home visitor develops a relationship with the family, works with the parent to help the child achieve developmental milestones, and at the same time, aids the parent in achieving personal financial, health, and well-being goals.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act allocated $1.5 billion annually for the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV) to fund states in implementing home visiting program models for families with children from birth to age 5 as well as pregnant women. The Child and Family Research Partnership is currently evaluating the statewide Texas Home Visiting program to understand the challenges in scaling home visiting programs and the potential impacts these two-generation programs can have on families and communities.


Though additional research is needed to fully understand the impact of a two-generation approach, it is clear from the Annie E. Casey Foundation Report that it is time for policymakers, government, and businesses to create and strengthen policies that support both the parent and child. Home visiting programs are one model for this approach but others should be considered as well.

Parents need access to post-secondary and employment pathways, as well as access to state and federal programs that increase income, to achieve financial stability. They also need resources to manage their own health and well-being in addition to that of their children. By connecting parents with these resources and at the same time, providing the children in the family with access to early childhood education, programs can reduce household stress and strengthen the family. This in turn provides children with a strong foundation for achieving developmental and learning milestones that will enable them to achieve future success.


- by Allison Dubin, Research Associate