Assessing Community Needs to Support and Preserve Pennsylvania's Home Visiting Programs

Statement of Problem

As the evidence-base has grown showing the strong connection between a parent’s well-being and parenting practices and their child’s health and development, so too has that of home visiting programs. Home visiting programs provide voluntary, in-home services to under-resourced pregnant mothers and families of young children. Since 2010, the Health and Resources Administration (HRSA) in partnership with the Administration of Children and Families (ACF) has supported the expansion of home visiting programs into communities across the country through the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program. MIECHV allows states, territories and tribal entities to maintain and grow the evidence-based or promising programs of their choice, all of which support important aspects of child development including maternal and caregiver health, educational and economic attainment and school readiness.

In order to maintain funds, states/grantees must complete a needs assessment every four years to identify the communities most in need of services and assess current capacity of home visiting programming so they can strategically allocate resources for these community-based public health services. Needs assessments are foundational public health tools for assessing a population’s risks, strengths, opportunities and trends over time.

In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) is the appointed administering agency for MIECHV funds. OCDEL has chosen to fund four evidence-based home visiting models—Early Head Start, Healthy Families America, Nurse-Family Partnership and Parents as Teachers. In 2010, OCDEL completed its first MIECHV statewide needs assessment, which reviewed concentrations of family-level risk factors within Pennsylvanian counties, including prenatal, maternal and newborn health, domestic violence, alcohol and drug violations, unemployment, poverty and child abuse. In 2014, OCDEL updated this assessment to include home visitation capacity of the four MIECHV-funded models. The 2014 needs assessment also provided county-level assessments of localized needs.


PolicyLab is partnering with OCDEL to conduct Pennsylvania’s 2020 statewide needs assessment. The assessment will include a quantitative and qualitative assessment that leverages multiple data sources to update the current understanding of maternal and child home visiting needs in Pennsylvania. The quantitative component will use county-level metrics to identify at-risk communities based on indices of risk in six domains: socio-economic status, substance use, perinatal outcomes, environment and community, child maltreatment and child care. The qualitative portion will build upon these results and explore topics identified as priorities by HRSA and OCDEL (e.g., substance use, capacity of home visiting programs). Ultimately, we’re seeking to conduct a needs assessment that reflects the current landscape of the Commonwealth’s opportunities for continued and enhanced home visiting service delivery, as well as highlights best practices that local implementing agencies are using to address community-specific challenges.

Next Steps

Between September 2018 and January 2019, PolicyLab in partnership with OCDEL completed prework that would help inform and shape the 2020 statewide needs assessment. This prework included engaging key state, local and national stakeholders to assess their priorities and desired strategic direction for the metrics and information that we will present in this collaborative needs assessment. The information we gathered will support our efforts to refine Pennsylvania’s assessment, ensuring it is highly useful for a broad range of early childhood stakeholders in the Commonwealth and beyond. 

By October 2020, we will undertake four major buckets of work–quantitative data analysis, qualitative interviews, drafting of and completion of the report and dissemination of the final needs assessment.

This project page was last updated in July 2019.

Suggested Citation

The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, PolicyLab. Assessing Community Needs to Support and Preserve Pennsylvania's Home Visiting Programs [online]. Available at: [Accessed: plug in date accessed here]. 

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