Magazine article Public Welfare

Hawaii Health Start

Magazine article Public Welfare

Hawaii Health Start

Article excerpt

Hawaii

The Hawaii Healthy Start voluntary home visitation program provides services to families of newborns who, due to various economic and social factors, are at high risk for child abuse and neglect. The program offers parent education, care coordination, information and referral, problem-solving and coping techniques, and child-health and developmental assessment--all provided in families' homes by trained paraprofessionals.

"They gave me back my life and more," says one woman who participated in Healthy Start. "1 never would've dreamed of having the life I do today. I have dreams today; I have goals." With the help of the program, she was able to move on from a life of domestic violence and substance abuse to earn a college degree and find full-time employment.

Although the program focuses on prevention, it also works with many parents who mirror the profile of individuals served by child protective services. Healthy Start's proactive approach and its focus on the entire family--as well as its emphasis on standards, staff training, and attention to outcomes--have contributed to its success. Comparisons of child abuse rates between participating and nonparticipating families have shown consistently lower rates of abuse among participating families.

A three-year randomized study completed by the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse in 1996 concluded that mothers who received home visitations significantly reduced their potential for physical abuse. Visited mothers displayed significantly greater maternal involvement and sensitivity to their children's cues, and the children were more responsive to their mothers. Other studies have found that families served by less intensive interventions show three times the rate of abuse.

The Hawaii Department of Human Services has identified Healthy Start as its principal child protective service diversion program. …

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