From Chicago to Darndale: Measuring Home Visiting’s Effectiveness in Early Intervention

  • Jul, 2023
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Darndale-based Preparing for Life (PFL), part of Northside Partnership, was delighted this week to welcome a delegation from the Center for the Economics of Human Development (CEHD), University of Chicago and Casa Central, a Chicago-based social service agency, the largest Hispanic agency in the Midwest offering programs for children, adults, and seniors.

The delegation met with Irish policy makers from the Office of the Taoiseach, Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, and Tusla to discuss child poverty, early intervention and home visiting. This came in advance of Rebecca Harles (CEHD), Louise McCulloch (PFL) and Isela Serna (Casa Central) delivering a presentation on  “A Community-Centered Approach to Home Visiting in Chicago” at the World Annual Infant Mental Health (WAIMH) conference. The presentation shares the process by which Preparing For Life has been adapted for use by Casa Central, serving a largely Spanish-speaking and Latinx community.

Isela Serna (Casa Central), Louise McCulloch (PFL) and Rebecca Harles (CEHD) present at WAIMH Conference, Dublin 2023

Preparing for Life is working with the University of Chicago and Casa Central to implement its  unique, evidence-based Home Visiting programme in Chicago. The group is adapting the programme for Chicago families and translating it into Spanish to serve Casa Central’s local community. The joint venture aims to support parents to nurture their children so the child, the parent and the community thrives. It also aims to understand which services and kinds of support most effectively promote healthy child development, as well as being a resource in the local community.

Researchers from the Center for the Economics of Human Development (CEHD) at the University of Chicago and Casa Central will monitor the programme’s progress and effectiveness over the coming years. The programme has been the subject of ongoing research by Dr. Orla Doyle of UCD’s Geary Institute of Public Policy, monitoring its impact on children at ages 4 and 9. The research continues this September as it monitors the children at age 13.

The delegation first met with the Preparing for Life and Northside Partnership teams to share stories and foster a spirit of collaboration. The group went on to visit Aster Family Support in Balbriggan, one of the newest centres to implement Preparing for Life Home Visiting, to see how the process works in an Irish setting.

Niall Sexton, programme manager with Preparing for Life said, “Céad Míle Fáilte to our colleagues from the University of Chicago and Casa Central. We are coming together to tell stories. The stories of the families we support, the communities in which we work and our own stories. Through these stories, we can see how much we have in common, and where the differences lie, so we can bridge these to deliver the best Home Visiting programme for the community in Chicago.”

Casa Central was selected from 18 organisations interviewed in Chicago to implement the programme. Marty Castro, CEO of Casa Central, spoke of the link between the Irish and Mexicans through the San Patricio battalion of Irish soldiers who fought in the Mexican American War and how this link lives on in the Hispanic community with whom Casa Central works.