Results from a three-year evaluation

KidsFirst is a federally-funded, provincially-run intervention program that gives services and support to vulnerable families in Saskatchewan through home visiting. It was launched in 2002 and is offered in nine areas of the province.

Clients enter the program during pregnancy or after the birth of their child. Factors determining their eligibility include low maternal education levels, mental health issues, financial instability, substance issues or other risk factors. Clients include women who have been diagnosed with FASD or who have given birth to a child with FASD.

While in the program, KidsFirst families receive:

  • Support from a home visitor who provides assistance regarding child development,  parenting and connecting to the community;
  • Help to access services such as childcare and parent support groups;
  • Early learning opportunities for children; and
  • Help regarding literacy, nutrition, transportation and specialized counseling services.

Last fall, an in-depth three-year evaluation (2007-2010) of KidsFirst was completed, and kidSKAN has produced a short video for its YouTube channel that introduces KidsFirst and the evaluation.

Some of the findings of the evaluation included:

  • Within the first six months of enrolling in KidsFirst, families were at less risk in all eight assessment categories: availability of social supports, food security, expectations of child, parent motivation, family identity and interactions, living conditions, housing suitability, housing stability. While some families experienced improvements later in the program, most improvements were shown in the first six months.
  • However, families with complex needs (experiencing challenges with domestic violence, maternal depression or mental illness, substance abuse, and extreme parenting stress) had decreased risk scores in only two categories: availability of social supports, and food security.
  • Families with the most complex needs were the ones least likely to stay with the program. (The evaluation does discuss the effect of housing on the participation of families in the program). Home visitors often found they were trying to help these families only in moments of crisis, rather than providing regular program support.
  •  Some reports indicated mothers cut back on smoking, quit drinking or addressed addictions issues.
  •  In general, the program staff found they needed to develop strong relationships with their clients before any information was accepted, or any shift in behaviour was achieved.

Some of the reports produced as part of this evaluation included:

For information on the research findings of the KidsFirst program, see www.kidskan.ca. The evaluation was also featured in the Population Health Intervention Research Casebook 2011 available through the Canadian Institute for Health Informatio