This program is developing tools to help pregnant women and new mothers, who may be at risk for child abuse and neglect, get access to treatment and support through home visiting programs. The study is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), and is being conducted in collaboration with Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey, the New Jersey Department of Children and Families, the New Jersey Department of Human Services – Division of Family Development and the New Jersey Department of Health.
- The goal of the study is to increase identification of behavioral health risks – such as substance abuse, domestic violence and mental health problems – among pregnant women and new mothers enrolled in home visiting programs, and increase access to services for these women. Services may include outpatient therapy for mental health and substance abuse and support or shelter for domestic violence.
- The program is being tested in four New Jersey counties in the context of the Healthy Families America program, which is one of the most widely implemented home visiting models in the U.S.. The tools being developed could potentially be adapted for other home visiting models.
- The program uses home visitors who are members of the women’s community. These individuals do not have advanced clinical training.
- The study’s findings will yield important data on whether using a standardized screening method for all new and soon-to-be mothers enrolled in the program will increase identification of behavioral health risks. It will also evaluate whether this will result in increased access to services, as well as if such procedures can be implemented successfully by home visitors without advanced clinical training.
- The study will aid in determining what issues may prevent successfully connecting at-risk women with behavioral health services.
- Home visiting is a program in which services designed to get new families off to a good start and promote child-parent bonding are administered in the homes of at-risk families. It is the most widely used child maltreatment prevention strategy across the country, and has recently been expanded under the Affordable Care Act.
- Many established program models have not systematically addressed parental substance use, mental health problems and domestic violence, key risk factors for child maltreatment. Since the Affordable Care Act went into effect, this is starting to change, as there is a renewed focus on the importance of using home visiting models as a resource for identifying treatment needs.