Implementing Early Steps to School Success™—Home Visiting

Model implementation summary last updated: 2019

The information in this implementation report reflects feedback, if provided, from this model’s developer as of the above date. The description of the implementation of the model(s) here may differ from how the model(s) was implemented in the manuscripts reviewed to determine this model’s evidence of effectiveness. Inclusion in the implementation report does not mean the practices described meet the HHS criteria for evidence of effectiveness. Please see the Effectiveness button on the left for more information about any research on the effectiveness of the model, including any version(s) of the model with effectiveness research. Versions of the model that are described in the Adaptations and enhancements section of this implementation report may include (1) versions that were identified by the model’s developer and (2) versions that have been implemented by researchers and have manuscripts that HomVEE rated high or moderate, but that are not supported by the model’s developer.

Model overview

Theoretical approach

Early Steps to School Success™ (Early Steps) is based on the premise that the five years before a child enters the formal education system is an important window of learning and enrichment. However, low-income families, particularly those who live in resource-poor rural areas, often lack the resources and support needed to promote their children’s early learning. Consequently, children experiencing poverty may find themselves behind their peers developmentally when they enter school.

The model aims to address this challenge by offering the following activities to low-income families with children from birth until the child’s fifth birthday:

  • Home visits for children from birth until the child’s third birthday;
  • Parent support groups held at a local school that include activities such as toddler storybook hours, parenting education groups, and family nights;
  • Referrals to enter center-based early childhood programs upon the child’s third birthday;
  • A book bag exchange to supply families with children’s books until kindergarten entry; and
  • Transition to preschool and kindergarten support, including developing individualized transition plans and providing transition activities such as visiting the classroom and meeting the teachers; home visits by the kindergarten teacher; a summer preparation program in the months before kindergarten; and workshops for building relationships between parents and schools.

Early Steps is typically implemented by local school districts. The model’s connection to the school system is designed to facilitate home-school collaboration and engagement from the time a child is born. Connection to the broader community is also key to Early Steps implementation. Early Steps programs strive to foster communities' engagement and early childhood knowledge to support families with young children and to connect families to local services. To that end, the local Early Steps program hosts community events such as literacy fairs and story walks, and activities with local law enforcement and other public groups.

The HomVEE review focuses on the home visiting component of the model (Early Steps-Home Visiting), including other activities facilitated by the home visitor, such as toddler storybook hours, parenting education groups, and family nights.

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Implementation support

Early Steps is an early childhood development model administered by Save the Children®, a nongovernmental organization. Save the Children U.S. Programs, an affiliate of Save the Children, developed Early Steps in 2006 through a public–private partnership with states and local schools. The Save the Children national and state-based program teams provide training, technical assistance, and overall Early Steps management to the local school districts that are implementing Early Steps (sometimes together with state and local early childhood and family social services systems). Local school districts receive grants from Save the Children (or, rarely, other entities – see Type of Implementing Agency) to implement Early Steps. The school districts provide office and meeting space and home visitor supervision.

The following national-level staff support local implementation:

  • Senior early childhood specialists are responsible for Early Steps quality assurance. They develop curricula; design and conduct the training for the home visitors and their Early Steps supervisors, the regional program specialists; and supervise the regional program specialists.
  • The national data manager manages the web-based data collection system and supports the data collection efforts of the home visitors.
  • The national director oversees all aspects of Early Steps across the country.

No additional information is available about the support provided by the state-based teams and whether the teams are available in all states implementing the model.

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Intended population

Early Steps-Home Visiting seeks to engage low-income families with children from birth to age 3 living in resource-poor rural areas.

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Targeted outcomes

Early Steps-Home Visiting is designed to contribute to the following goals:

  • Children will enter school with the social-emotional, language and literacy, fine and gross motor, and cognitive skills necessary to be successful.
  • Parents will have the skills to support their children’s growth and development.
  • Parents and schools will have positive and ongoing relationships and connections.
  • Community partners will work together on behalf of families.
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Model services

Early Steps-Home Visiting provides home visits designed to help parents foster their children’s development and education. The home visitor, referred to as an early childhood coordinator, uses the Ages and Stages Questionnaire regularly to monitor the child’s development. In collaboration with the family, the home visitor uses the questionnaire results to create child development goals. The home visitor refers the family to community providers for follow-up assessment, as needed.

During visits, the home visitor supports parents in establishing healthy sleep routines, developing positive parent–child interactions, and helping toddlers develop self-control and problem-solving skills. Home visitors also offer suggestions on activities designed to promote children’s growth and development. The home visitor and the family discuss the child development activities that the family has done since the last visit and any developmental gains the child has made. The home visitor also brings books that are age and culturally appropriate to leave with the family. Over the course of the program, the home visitor helps the family develop a child portfolio that includes items such as assessment results, photos, immunization records, and the child’s artwork.

The home visitor also facilitates parent–child groups that include activities such as toddler storybook hours, parenting education groups, and family nights.

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Model intensity and length

Early Steps-Home Visiting requires two visits per month that last 60 minutes each. The home visits span from birth to the child’s third birthday.

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Early Steps-Home Visiting is currently implemented at 93 locations in the following states: Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Washington, and West Virginia.

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Adaptations and enhancements

No information is available on any adaptations or enhancements made to the model.
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Implementation notes

The information contained on this page was last updated in August 2019. Recommended further reading lists the sources for this information. In addition, the information contained in this profile was reviewed for accuracy by Judith Jerald, Senior Early Childhood Advisor, Save the Children, in May 2019. HomVEE reserves the right to edit the profile for clarity and consistency.


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