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HomeJournal ContentsIssue Contents
Volume 2 Number 1
©The Author(s) 2000

Home-Community Visits during an Era of Reform (1870-1920)

Navaz Peshotan Bhavnagri & Sue Krolikowski
College of Education
Wayne State University


This article documents home and community visits by early childhood pioneers during the Reform Era (1870-1920). The home-community visitors promoted the development of young children by addressing the needs of poor and vulnerable children, their families, and their communities. As the rationale for focusing on the Reform Era, this article identifies four parallels between the societal conditions influencing home-community visits during the Reform Era and the societal conditions present today: (1) efforts to eradicate poverty by changing environmental conditions, (2) massive arrival of immigrants, (3) rapid transformation of society, and (4) promotion of volunteerism. This study identifies the charity kindergarten movement, establishment of settlement houses, and promotion of compulsory education as the three major social justice movements during the Reform Era that contributed significantly to home-community visits. The objectives, procedures, and outcomes of home-community visits during each of the three social justice movements are identified and elaborated. Home-community visits by philanthropic kindergarten teachers resulted in (1) parents valuing play, (2) appropriate transformation of child-rearing practices and neighborhoods, (3) families receiving welfare services, (4) parents becoming local advocates and leaders, and (5) kindergarten becoming a part of public schools. Home-community visits by residents from settlement houses resulted in (1) reforming child labor practices and legislating compulsory education, (2) legislating housing reform and standards on public conveniences, and (3) introducing and promoting safe playgrounds. Home-community visits by visiting teachers from public schools resulted in prevention and amelioration of academic failure. The article concludes with 10 lessons contemporary educators can learn from historical home-community visits.shortcut over the roofs

A home visitor takes a shortcut over the roofs of the tenements. (Photo courtesy of the Visiting Nurse Service of New York.)


In the past half decade, there has been increased interest in home visits as a system of delivering services to children and families. In 1993, it was estimated that 200,000 children were enrolled in home visitation programs, but by 1999, the estimate had risen to 550,000 (Gomby, Culross, & Behrman, 1999). These model programs include Hawaii's Healthy Start, Healthy Families America, the Nurse Home Visitation Program, Parents as Teachers, the Home Instruction Program for Preschool Youngsters, and the Comprehensive Child Development Program. Many of these programs have been replicated nationally. In addition, the Federal Office of Juvenile Delinquency Prevention, the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, Early Head Start, Title I, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, state Children's Trust Funds, and many private foundations are investing millions of dollars in home visitation programs (Gomby, Culross, & Behrman, 1999).

Furthermore, a number of experts and national panels such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Commission to Prevent Infant Mortality, the National Governors' Association, and the Expert Panel on the Content of Prenatal Care have examined or proposed home visits as a method of delivering supportive and preventive services. The U.S. Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect has recommended that the federal government implement a universal voluntary neonatal home visiting program (Krugman, 1993).

Home visits are a unique service-provision strategy because they bring the services directly to hard-to-reach families who may be isolated geographically, socially, and psychologically-thereby overcoming these barriers for people who cannot attend center-based programs because of a lack of transportation and child care (Weiss, 1993). Another unique feature of home visits is that the visitor's willingness to enter a family's home and neighborhood signals a less formal, more relaxed relationship between visitor and parent, thereby equalizing the balance of power between the two (Weiss, 1993).

This idea of bringing services to families in a friendly manner is not a recent social invention. Historically, educators, along with other professionals such as doctors, nurses, and social workers, have used home-community visits as an effective tool to provide support and services to children. The visits discussed in this article are limited to those conducted by early childhood educators who sometimes also happened to be nurses and social workers.

Typically in the past, when early childhood professionals visited the homes of children, they also visited the entire neighborhood as well. They actively promoted community development of those neighborhoods because the condition of the neighborhoods affected the well-being of the children. Additionally, historical primary sources described the home-community visit as an integrated concept. Thus, home and community visits are conceptualized in this article as a unified strategy used by early childhood pioneers to address the needs of the children, their families, and their communities in order to promote the total development of young children.


Visitors became familiar with neighborhoods such as the one shown in this photograph. (Reproduced with permission: Jane Addams Memorial Collection, JAMC negative 296, Special Collections, University Library, University of Illinois at Chicago.)

Rationale for Focusing on the Reform Era: Sociohistorical Parallels between Then and Now

This article focuses on home and community visitors who promoted early childhood education and development during the "Reform Era"-sometimes also called the "social justice movement" (Levine & Levine, 1992). According to Shapiro (1983), this period extended approximately from the beginning of the "Free Kindergarten Crusade" to the end of the "Progressive Era." As our rationale for focusing exclusively on the Reform Era (i.e., 1870-1920), we have identified four parallels between the societal conditions influencing home-community visits a century ago and the societal conditions in contemporary times: (1) efforts to eradicate poverty by changing environmental conditions, (2) massive arrival of immigrants, (3) rapid transformation of society, and (4) promotion of volunteerism.

Eradication of Poverty by Changing Environmental Conditions

During the Reform Era, many people assumed that the environment, rather than an individual's weaknesses of character, body, or intellect, was the cause of vice, crime, and moral degeneration (Handlin, 1982; Holbrook, 1983; Bremner, 1956). Therefore, many believed that poverty could be checked by positively transforming the crowded urban environment (e.g., providing adequate health care, housing, parks, playgrounds, support services, and public welfare) (Boyer, 1978). Because those espousing this enlightened view believed in progress, the period of reform from 1890 to 1920, according to Mattson (1998), and from 1904 to 1920 according to Shapiro (1983), is also called the Progressive Era, a time period that is covered in this article. Child advocates today also have this enlightened view-that the United States needs to improve the status of its children by actively changing present environmental conditions, including crime and violence in the inner cities (Children's Defense Fund, 1999).

Like children living in poverty during the Reform Era, children living in poverty today are precariously housed, suffer from impaired health, and have higher rates of school failure, dropping out of school, and delinquency than children from wealthy families. Their parents, like parents during the Reform Era, are likely to have limited education, and they may lack the knowledge necessary to promote health and positive developmental outcomes in their children (National Center for Children in Poverty, 1990). The specific details of "welfare reform" during the Reform Era and today may not be the same; however, the overall rationale for reform claimed by many is similar; namely, to better serve the poor. Trattner (1992) states that "conditions in today's inner cities are similar to those in our nineteenth-century ghettos and slums-and that current attacks on the poor and the programs established to help them echo many of the sentiments expressed in the earlier dialogue" (p. xii). Thus, today-as was the case from 1870 to 1920-poverty and welfare are a source of intense debate and controversy about the role of communities, government, law, philanthropy, the economy, individual responsibility, and personal morality.

Massive Arrival of Immigrants

From 1900 to 1910, 8.9 million immigrants entered the United States. Similarly, from 1980 to 1990, there were 9.5 million immigrants to this country (Fix & Zimmermann, 1993). Hunt (1976) reports that between 1890 and 1920, about 18 million people entered the United States from central and eastern Europe. "The United States Immigration Commission reported that in 1909, 57.8 percent of the children in the schools of the nation's thirty-seven largest cities were of foreign-born parentage. In New York City the percentage was 71.5, in Chicago 67.3, and in San Francisco it was 57.8" (Weiss, 1982, p. xiii). The teachers in New York reported that the arrival of every steamer swelled their classes because the immigrants "landed on Saturday, settled on Sunday and reported to school on Monday" (Berrol, 1991, p. 28). The immigrant children who arrived in public schools were ethnically diverse (Handlin, 1982; Riis, 1970); many schools in New York City had at least 54 nationalities (Hunt, 1976).

congested immigrant neighborhood

Home visitors encountered congested immigrant neighborhoods during home-community visits. (Note the signs referring to public baths and the pushcarts on the street.)

Prior to the massive immigration a century ago, public schools were inefficient, corrupt, thoroughly politicized, and generally inadequate (Berrol, 1991). Immigration helped reform schools in New York and expanded the school system to include kindergartens, high schools, vacation schools, social service programs, and curriculum changes. The schools' role was to provide a common experience for these immigrant children from diverse backgrounds so that they could all become responsible citizens able to take part in a democracy. Dewey (1915, 1916), for example, vociferously argued that progressive education, when universally provided to all American children, was a foundation for learning how to participate in a democracy. The reformers and public school educators in those days were more focused on homogenizing various ethnic immigrants by promoting "universalism," democratization, and Americanization of citizenry through compulsory schooling than they were on strengthening individual ethnic identity through "celebrating diversity" and "cultural pluralism."

If current trends in population increases among African Americans and Hispanics continue, by the year 2020, the "minorities" among school-age children will be the majority in U.S. schools (Berliner & Biddle, 1995). The U.S. Bureau of the Census (1997) reported that the numbers of immigrant and minority children were once again increasing in American schools. As before, the public and the schools are reacting ambivalently to this new wave of immigrants (e.g., sometimes adding and at other times deleting bilingual education; providing English-as-a-second-language programs, multicultural education, and education for pluralism and democracy; while at the same time, introducing the English Only Movement and California's Proposition 227). Additionally, as before, in order to be responsive to immigrants, schools are undergoing major reforms and are attempting to be more efficient.

Rapid Transformation of Society

During the Reform Era, American society was rapidly undergoing transformation from a rural agrarian society into an urban industrial society; today, American society is transforming itself from an industrial society into an information society. As a result of industrialization and urbanization during the Reform Era, a literate, skilled labor force was needed, as well as adequate child care arrangements for lower-class working women. Similarly, today, we need a computer-literate, technologically sophisticated labor force and high-quality child care arrangements for working women.

Promotion of Volunteerism

The Reform Era was also a new epoch in active volunteerism, which was then called "scientific philanthropy" (Bremner, 1988) or "scientific charity" (Katz, 1996). Accordingly, "'friendly visiting' of the poor in their homes by volunteers . . . was the core-or better, the heart-of charity organization" (Bremner, 1988, p. 95). According to Watson (1922), volunteerism had four advantages: (1) it supplemented professional services, (2) it communicated enthusiasm, (3) it provided additional community contacts, and (4) it educated the volunteers about the lives of the poor and the causes of poverty. Volunteerism is strongly advocated, even today, to reach out to children and families. For example, the Republican majority of the U.S. Congress, former President Bush's "Thousand Points of Light" program, and President Clinton's initiative under the leadership of Colin Powell have all advocated volunteerism to promote the well-being of children, families, and communities.

Social Justice Movements

We believe that the kindergarten movement, the establishment of settlement houses, and the promotion of compulsory public education are the three major social justice movements that contributed significantly to the evolution of home-community visits from 1870 to 1920. The teachers who worked for philanthropic kindergartens, residents who worked for settlement houses, and visiting teachers who worked for public schools all had an overarching, common agenda-to promote the well-being of children, families, and communities through home-community visits. Their strategies for providing dedicated services and child advocacy through home-community visits are instructive and relevant for early childhood educators today. Therefore, we have identified the purposes, procedures, and outcomes of these home-community visits in each of these social justice movements (see Table 1, Table 2, and Table 3).

Table 1
Home-Community Visits during the Reform Era: Purposes of Visits
Charity Kindergarten Teachers’ Visits Settlement House Workers’ Visits Public School Visiting Teachers’ Visits

To educate parents about innovative kindergarten education

To know children as individuals by knowing their families and communities

To facilitate "Americanization" of children and families

To teach parents about nutrition, hygiene, alternative methods of discipline, and child development

To utilize community businesses, services, and resources to optimize children's development and promote kindergartens

To improve the living conditions of the poor

To provide compulsory education for children in public schools

To provide academic services for children’s achievement

Table 2
Home-Community Visits during the Reform Era: Procedures of Visits
Charity Kindergarten Teachers’ Visits Settlement House Workers’ Visits Public School Visiting Teachers’ Visits

Conducted home visits to successfully build rapport with families

Introduced Froebelian "gifts" and "occupations"

Taught child care and management and the educational value of play

Taught the importance of health and nutrition to reduce infant mortality and to provide social support during medical crises

Alleviated the effects of poverty by mobilizing human resources including children

Provided public amenities (e.g., incinerators, storage containers, toilets, public baths)

Conducted qualitative, ethnographic, participatory action research

Conducted referrals

Interviewed children at school

Scheduled visits to homes, agencies, and other community settings

Decided on the intervention strategy

Table 3
Home-Community Visits during the Reform Era: Outcomes of Visits
Charity Kindergarten Teachers’ Visits Settlement House Workers’ Visits Public School Visiting Teachers’ Visits

Parents valuing play as educational

Families transforming child-rearing practices and neighborhoods (supported by anecdotal evidence)

Families receiving welfare services

Parents becoming local advocates and leaders

Kindergartens becoming part of public schools

Reformation in labor legislation and compulsory education

Establishment of standards (e.g., adequate space, conveniences, privacy, and public baths) and housing reform

Introduction and promotion of safe playgrounds

Correction and prevention of academic failure

Kindergarten Movement's Contribution to Home-Community Visits

The charity kindergarten movement, often called the "Kindergarten Crusade," came about because of the commitment of young idealistic women from comfortable circumstances who worked with missionary zeal to spread the philosophy and practices of Froebel. These kindergarten pioneers included philanthropists, university presidents, and kindergarten teachers. Their mission was to "save the children" from the vice, intemperance, sloth, misery, and hopelessness that their parents were confronting in the slums (Ross, 1976). They believed that the Froebelian approach would unfold the potential of these young and malleable children, who would then grow up to be upstanding adults who would fully participate in the democracy of the nation (Snyder, 1972). "The more kindergartens the fewer prisons" (Riis, 1970, p. 181) was a common saying in those days. The kindergarten movement was successful mainly because the dedicated "kindergartners" (i.e., teachers) won the respect, cooperation, and confidence of the community (Ross, 1976) by visiting the students' families and their neighborhoods in the afternoons (Shapiro, 1983; Vandewalker, 1908).

Purposes of Home-Community Visits

The first and primary purpose of the home visits was to educate parents regarding innovative kindergarten education. Unlike most of today's parents, parents during the Reform Era knew nothing about kindergarten philosophy and practice because they had not personally experienced a kindergarten education when they were children. The Froebelian gifts and occupations (e.g., songs and games) as educational methods and materials were alien to these parents(Brosterman, 1997) because the traditional teachers they knew believed only in "rote and recite" and would not consider participation in play as educationally sound.

The second purpose of home visits was to know the children as individuals by intimately knowing the families and the neighborhoods in which they were raised. The third purpose was to facilitate the "Americanization" of the children and their families, which meant helping the new families adjust and accept the way of life and values of their adopted country (Hewes, 1985). The fourth purpose of the home-community visits was to teach parents about nutrition, hygiene, alternative methods of discipline, and child development. The fifth purpose was to utilize the community's businesses, services, and resources to optimize children's development and promote kindergartens.

Procedures of Home-Community Visits

First, home visitors of the kindergarten movement conducted relatively frequent home-community visits in a skillful manner in order to build a supportive relationship between visitors and parents. Hewes (1985) reports that these teachers appear to have been widely accepted by the parents into their homes. Ross (1976) further explains that it was the high frequency of their home visits that contributed to the acceptance of teachers, which paved the way for acceptance of their ideas-including the idea that play was developmentally appropriate.photo

This photograph shows the interior of a home that a visitor would have encountered. (Reproduced with permission: Jane Addams Memorial Collection, JAMC negative 1002, Special Collections, University Library, University of Illinois at Chicago.)

Not only were the teachers and their ideas merely accepted, but according to Kate Douglas Wiggin (1923), they were actually welcomed because of their rapport-building skills. Wiggin (1923) articulates how she used multiple strategies (e.g., flexibility, respect, sensitivity, and empathic identification) as she built relationships during home-community visits:

I never entered any house where I felt the least sensation of being out of place. I don't think this flexibility is a gift of especially high order, nor that it would be equally valuable in all walks of life, but it is of great service in this sort of work. Whether I sat in a stuffed chair or on a nail keg or an inverted washtub, it was always equally agreeable to me. The "getting into relation" perfectly, and without the loss of a moment, gave me a sense of mental and spiritual exhilaration. I never had to adapt myself elaborately to a strange situation in order to be in sympathy. My one idea was to keep the situation simple and free from embarrassment to any one; to be as completely a part of it as if I had been born there; to be helpful without being intrusive; to show no surprise whatever happened; above all, to be cheerful, strong, and bracing, not weakly sentimental. (pp. 112-113)

As a result, Wiggin was so highly respected that she was heralded in the streets. The following quotation suggests that at the termination of home visits, confidences were informally shared as part of the procedure. Wiggin (1893) writes:

Some years ago a San Francisco kindergartner was threading her way through a dirty alley, making friendly visits to the children of her flock. As she lingered on a certain door-step, receiving the last confidences of some weary woman's heart, she heard a loud but not unfriendly voice ringing from an upper window of a tenement-house just round the corner. "Clear things from underfoot!" peeled the voice, in stentorian accents. "The teacher o' the Kids' Guards is commin' down the street!" (pp. 3-4)


This photograph shows an interior of a home that a visitor would have encountered.

Second, during home visits, the kindergarten teachers introduced the Froebelian gifts and occupations as teaching and entertaining methods for the whole family (Ross, 1976). According to Ross, they also promoted Froebelian play methods during their home visits, for she reported that a teacher in "the Elm City Free Kindergartens allowed children to take home their toys, such as books, puzzles, bicycles, and sleds, on a rotating basis. Teachers noted in their home visits that these toys brought pleasure to all members of the family, and although everyone played with them, they were rarely returned broken" (p. 42).

Third, during these visits, the teachers eventually expanded the discussion beyond Froebelian education to include the effective methods of child rearing and topics relating to the child's total development. According to Shapiro (1983):

At first the home visits were aimed solely at explaining the morning exercises and programs of the child-the meaning and usefulness of the complicated gifts, occupations, songs, and games. Gradually the kindergarten teacher broadened the discussions to include topics in child care, health and nutrition. Free-kindergarten visitors also took great pains in explaining the advantages of patience and understanding in child management, since most reformers subscribed to the assumption of wide-spread use, and sometimes abuse, of physical punishment in slum families. (p. 101)

Outcomes of Home-Community Visits

The first and most obvious outcome of home-community visits was that the parents began to value play as an educational activity and not as frivolity, idleness, sloth, and a waste of time. According to Rollins (1893), one may didactically teach that "two plus two make four, but he [the child] did not become any better, nor did he seem much more intelligent" (p. 41). Rollins did not consider this type of teaching as education. Next, she described a playful clay modeling activity, which instead taught the child numerical concepts, because the child himself constructed multiple clay rabbits. The teacher then asked, "'How many rabbits are there now?' and he said instantly, 'four rabbits'" (p. 43). When Bond (1893) asked mothers how kindergarten had specifically influenced their children, they responded that play had the following worthwhile cognitive outcomes-first, "the habit of working or playing to a plan, the concentration of the mind upon one thing at a time, the habits of order" (p. 176); and second, "the ability to occupy themselves at home in kindergarten ways" (pp. 176-177).

The second outcome that parents reported was a transformation in their child-rearing practices. For example, Gilder (1903) reports that one parent stated, "I used to hit my Josie something awful, and now I don't" (p. 134). Gilder additionally says the following about another mother: "She said she could do nothing with her boy of three whom she was knocking about and shouting at in the mode of the neighborhood. Her home was dirty, pitiable. Under the influence of the kindergarten, and its teacher, she has become one of the most interested and devoted of mothers. She asks for suggestions, and reads the books from the kindergarten library" (p. 134).

A third outcome of the kindergarten teachers' home-community visits was the transformation of the neighborhood. Constance Mackenziein 1886 (as cited in Vandewalker, 1908) described the following condition of a neighborhood, both pre- and post-intervention:

The touch of the kindergarten upon the home had a humanizing effect which appeared nothing short of remarkable. One short street at that time, reputed to be among the worst in the city, was in some respects practically transformed by the home visits and the reflex influence of the kindergarten children. At the time when the kindergarten began its unobtrusive crusade in that neighborhood, to walk through the street meant to invite an assault upon four of the five senses, as well as upon one's sense of decency. The place and the people were filthy; the conversation was unfit to listen to; the odors were appalling. By and by, however, a change became noticeable. The newspapers apologetic substitutes for glass disappeared from many broken window-panes, and old cans, sweet with green things growing, took their places. Chairs were cleaned when "teacher" was announced, and by and by the rooms were kept brushed up to greet her unexpected coming. After a while the children's work, first discarded as trash began to assume an extrinsic value-the walls must be fresh to receive it. The children insisted upon clean clothes to be worn to kindergarten, and a general if dingy wash followed. . . . Lessons of cleanliness, thrift, and trust were learned through experience and communicated to the homes through the insistence of the children and the friendly home talks of the kindergartners. (pp. 61-62)

A fourth outcome of home-community visits was that the kindergarten teachers helped families by effectively using the community as a resource and contacting welfare services. Imagine Kate Douglas Wiggin, who started the Silver Street Kindergarten in "Tar Flats" (one of the worst slums in San Francisco), lifting her long skirt and walking through garbage, cans, and bottles to regularly visit the mothers (Snyder, 1972). During visitations, she was bi-directional in her approach; that is, she offered herself as an informal resource, by being available, to make the local business community feel comfortable about her kindergarten, and she received services from the neighborhood businesses. She actively strategized this bi-directional process in the following manner:

Buying and borrowing were my first two aids to fellowship. I bought my luncheon at a different bakery every day and my glass of milk at a different dairy. At each visit I talked, always casually, of the new kindergarten, and gave its date of opening, but never solicited pupils. I bought pencils, crayons, and mucilage of the local stationers; brown paper and soap of the grocers; hammers and tacks of the hardware man. I borrowed many things, returned them soon, and thus gave my neighbors the satisfaction of being helpful.

To each craftsman in the vicinity I showed the particular branch of kindergarten handiwork that might appeal to him, whether laying of patterns in sticks and tablets, weaving, drawing, rudimentary efforts at designing, folding and cutting of paper, or clay modeling. (Wiggin, 1923, p. 112)

Thus Wiggin was one of those "dauntless women" who used tact, social skills, and perseverance to enter the lower-income tenements that were alien to her own upbringing. Even an enrollment of 50 children did not deter Wiggin from including the home visits in her curriculum.

Hill (1972) too described how the kindergarten teachers used the community as a resource. They spent their afternoons "eagerly seeking work for the unemployed parents, space in hospitals for ill mothers, sisters or brothers, searching for physicians who would remove adenoids and tonsils or dentists who would extractdiseased teeth, free of charge. This was the most important contribution of the pioneer kindergartners, as at this period the kindergarten was frequently the only social agency offering a helping hand in the rapidly-increasing slums" (p. 75). It was no small task to enlist free, multiple services repeatedly.

The kindergarten teachers also used social service agencies, such as the Salvation Army and the Catholic Aide Society, as a resource to bolster their efforts on behalf of children's health and nutrition (Ross, 1976). According to Smith (1967), the kindergarten teacher "was a social worker in the truest meaning of the phrase" (p. 83); while Riis (1970) says, "In the truest and best sense she is a missionary to the poor" (p. 180). Gilder (1903) agrees that "home visitation, mothers' meetings, and social work are an integral part of the system. . . ." (p. 133).

A fifth outcome of the home visits was that the parent-teacher relationships built during successful home visits resulted in effective group meetings (Harrison, 1903), which in turn provided opportunities for parents to become local advocates and leaders (Shapiro, 1983). These educational group meetings also addressed common neighborhood problems (e.g., housing, shopping, child care and health, and community facilities) and later evolved into electing neighborhood residents to political offices.

Hewes (1985) reports that although this movement finally resulted in starting 75 philanthropic kindergarten associations, employing 6,000 teachers, and having burgeoning enrollments, the teachers did not waver from doing their home visits. She concluded that teachers continued with the home visits because they were convinced that visiting the homes served a vital purpose of helping families with their problems.

A final outcome of the home visits was the kindergarten teachers' success in making kindergartens available to all children through the public schools-not just the poor children through philanthropic schools. Regrettably, however, this expansion had a deleterious effect on home-community visits. Once the kindergarten programs became a part of the public schools, most of the teachers were required to have double sessions in order to have the same full-day teaching schedule as the other elementary teachers. As a result, as predicted by Mackenzie-Durham (1900) and Curtis (1900), they could not do home-community visits. Palmer reports (as cited in Ross, 1976) that by 1912, over two-thirds of the almost 900 cities with public kindergartens had double sessions, resulting in the demise of home visits. This development highly perturbed the kindergarten teachers because they considered home visits to be an integral component of their professional responsibilities (Smith, 1967).

Settlement Houses Movement's Contribution to Home Visits

The social settlement reform movement originated in England in 1884. The first famous settlement house in the United States was Hull House on Halsted Street on the west side of Chicago, founded in 1889 (Addams, 1910; Davis, 1959). As part of this movement, the educated reformers from the upper class, who were called "residents" or "settlement workers," actually moved into working-class neighborhoods in the congested cities (Davis, 1959) where they actively promoted community development through regularly visiting homes and businesses.

Purpose of Home-Community Visits

The central purpose of settlement workers' visits to the homes and to the community was to improve the living conditions of the poor. Imagine these settlement workers regularly dealing with the following conditions: "Alleys, halls, and courts of multiple houses were regarded by tenants and public alike as extensions of the highway [street]. Doors into hallways, privies, and cellars went unlocked day and night and invited abominations and crime. Dark halls and stairways could not but be filthy and dangerous. Children risked their limbs on slimy and crowded sidewalks and roadways, because there was no alternative but stagnation in one or two stuffy rooms" (Woods & Kennedy, 1922, pp. 231-232).

Procedures of Home Visits

First, during home-community visits, the settlement workers promoted the well-being of all family members, especially frail children, by educating the family about the importance of health and sanitation. In 1888, the "baby death rate" was 88.38% in the tenement population of approximately one quarter million people (Riis, 1970). Lillian Wald (1915), the famous settlement worker at the House on Henry Street, reported that "there is a large measure of preventable ignorance, and in the efforts for the reduction of infant mortality the intelligent reaction of the tenement-house mother has been remarkably evidenced" (p. 55).


Visitors noted the less-than-optimal conditions for health and sanitation that directly affected children's well-being. As a result, children were given baths in settlement houses. (Note the immunization scab on the arm of the child on the right.) (Reproduced with permission: Jane Addams Memorial Collection, JAMC negative 607, Special Collections, University Library, University of Illinois at Chicago.)

Spargo (1915) had a similar viewpoint:

As in all human problems, ignorance plays an important role in this great problem of childhood's suffering and misery. . . . A child was given cabbage by its mother when it was three weeks old; another, seven weeks old, was fed for several days in succession on sausage and bread with pickles! Both died of gastritis, victims of ignorance. In another New York tenement home a baby less than nine weeks old was fed on sardines with vinegar and bread by its mother. Even more pathetic is the case of the baby, barely six weeks old, found by a district nurse in Boston in the family clothes-basket which formed its cradle, sucking a long strip of salt, greasy bacon and with a bottle containing beer by its side. (pp. 27-28)

Through the intervention of home visits, the settlement workers helped reduce infant mortality by promoting healthy early child care and education. The next example describes this process: "In 1911 New York City authorized the municipalization of fifteen milk stations, and so satisfactory was the result that the next year the appropriation permitted more than the trebling of this number. A nurse is attached to each station to follow into the homes and there lay the foundation, through education, for hygienic living. A marked reduction in infant mortality has been brought about and, moreover, a realization, on the part of the city, of the immeasurable social and economic value of keeping the babies alive" (Wald, 1915, pp. 56-57).

During home visits, the settlement workers provided support to families in medical crisis, which was an informal way of educating them about health. Woods and Kennedy (1922) reported that "they served as impromptu nurses in child birth, bound up cuts and bruises, dispensed simple remedies, gave aid and comfort pending arrival of doctor, supplied food, medicine and sick-room utensils, performed the housework of stricken mothers to keep the family together" (p. 247).


Visitors reached out to children with special needs. (Reproduced with permission: Jane Addams Memorial Collection, JAMC negative 923, Special Collections, University Library, University of Illinois at Chicago.)

Second, during home-community visits, the settlement workers alleviated the effects of poverty by mobilizing the human resources to transform their own neighborhoods. For example, a number of settlements organized groups of children into juvenile brigades, patterned after the city departments, to assist in keeping the streets clean (Woods & Kennedy, 1922).

Third, during home-community visits, the settlement residents worked closely with tenants, landlords, and municipalities to provide public amenities such as incinerators, storage containers, toilets, and public baths. Woods and Kennedy (1922) described the following as the results of Hull House residents' actions:"The first civic venture of Neighborhood Guild was an Anti-Filth Society, organized to induce people to clear their rooms of bedbugs, lice, cockroaches, and rats; and Hull House installed, as a kind of supreme luxury, an incinerator for the destruction of garbage. . . . Tenements without running water, inside sanitary conveniences, or bins for storage of food and coal were the rule"(p. 231). "Many tenement apartments were without even a kitchen sink, and the necessity of carrying heavy pails from a distant hallway or yard potently discouraged refinements of cleanliness" (p. 237).

During home-community visits, the settlement residents observed adults and children, including those sick with serious infectious diseases, participating in many household economic activities, such as cracking nuts; pulling out basting; sewing; making cigarettes, paper bags, toys, laces, silk buttons, shoes, flowers, and boxes (Addams, 1910;Riis, 1970; Woods & Kennedy, 1922; Wald, 1915); and perhaps even rag-picking and cleaning. Seller (1977) states that "impoverished Germans in New York City became scavengers. Men, women, and children gathered discarded bones from slaughter houses and filthy rags from hospitals and gutters. . . . In their tenement apartments they boiled the rotting flesh off the bones, washed and dried the vile-smelling rags, bagged the products, and sold them to refuse dealers for a few cents a bag" (p. 77).


Settlement residents observed adults and children in household economic activities such as the sewing shown in this photograph.

The above narratives describe the interiors of the homes the settlement workers visited. During community visits, they observed the outside surroundings of these tenement homes. These settlement residents realized that in order to have clean streets, the tenement dwellers had to have amenities for storage, collection, and disposal of papers, ashes, and garbage, because it was customary to throw these items into the street. Therefore, "early residents had taken measures to induce or to compel owners of neighborhood tenements to drain cellars, repair privies and outhouses, and light dark hallways. Condemnation of a number of houses, so unfit for habitation that departments of health had no alternative but to order their destruction, was secured" (Woods & Kennedy, 1922, pp. 236-237). Thus, during home-community visits, the settlement residents advocated social responsibility among the community members.

Fourth, during home-community visits, the settlement residents developed "accurate and minute familiarity with the local pattern of streets, houses, and institutions, as well as sustained participation in many-sided associations and interests" (Woods & Kennedy, 1922, p. 59). Therefore, they directly interacted with people and participated in activities that were quite alien to them. They called this process "a new method of penetration" where the settlement residents "identify themselves so directly with their problem" such that they become an integral member of the community. Some residents moved out of the settlement houses and started living in the tenements along with the local population.

Additionally, using a household survey method with maps, the settlement residents did door-to-door home visits and block-to-block community visits to document overcrowding of the neighborhoods. Their approach was ethnographic because they (1) took into account the physical and social ecology when doing community visits, (2) did household surveys of the community, (3) made maps, (4) focused on social density, (5) participated in the community life of the local people, and (6) lived like one of the people. Thus, qualitative action research was a significant process during these home-community visits.

Outcomes of Home Visits

The first outcome of home-community visits was the reform in labor legislation that enhanced children's opportunity for education and reduced their exploitation. Addams (1910) wrote that "while we found many pathetic cases of child labor and hard driven victims of the sweating system . . . it became evident that we must add carefully collected information to our general impression of neighborhood conditions if we would make it of any genuine value" (p. 200). Thus, systematic documentation of what they observed during their home-community visits provided the necessary accurate, authentic, and descriptive data to support their case for legislation prohibiting child labor. Additionally, they tirelessly campaigned to change social policies and advocated for labor legislation by visiting and lobbying the community groups. For example, speakers from Hull House addressed trade unions, benefit societies, church organizations, and social clubs in evenings for 3 months. As a result, the "residents of Hull house had included a child labor clause in the Illinois Factory Act of 1893, which forbade employment of children under fourteen years of age in manufacture, required an age certificate for all under sixteen, and limited the hours of women and children to eight" (Woods & Kennedy, 1922, p. 185). Similar child labor laws were crafted by many settlement workers in other states as well.


Visits resulted in campaigns against the "sweating system." (Reproduced with permission: Jane Addams Memorial Collection, Hull House Association records, HHA negative 33, Special Collections, University Library, University of Illinois at Chicago.)

These laws indirectly encouraged the children to attend the schools instead of working in "sweatshops." These sweatshops consisted of home income-generating activities, where the outside employers paid women and children by the piece, rather than by the hour. Because the wages were very low, many parents had greater incentives to make children stay at home and work than to send them to school. Additionally, the children were needed to mind their infant siblings while parents worked (Riis, 1970). Many parents saw little connection between formal schooling and the children's present and future earning capacity (Berrol, 1991; Handlin, 1982).Thus, the impact of documenting the residents' visits had a profound effect on not only the children of those times, but also on future generations.

A second outcome of these visits was housing reform in New York City. The residents formed a consortium of settlement houses that lobbied legislatures and displayed several notable tenement house exhibits to bring about housing reform. Woods and Kennedy (1922) claimed that the settlement workers' testimony was credible and effective because they were eye witnesses and had gained personal experiences when they visited from "street to street and neighborhood to neighborhood" (p. 380). As a result, in order to provide adequate space, privacy, convenience, and good health for family members, standards were established for tenements regarding the size of the rooms, location and area of window spaces, and location of toilets and exits. Housing reform also resulted in a demand for public baths. One of the first of these public baths was built in Chicago on land controlled by Hull House. Over time, 50 settlements had constructed baths for public use.

old poster

Visitors from settlement houses promoted playgrounds. (Reproduced with permission: Jane Addams Memorial Collection, Hull House Association records, HHA negative 32, Special Collections, University Library, University of Illinois at Chicago.)

A third outcome of home-community visits was acceptance of play in safe and open outdoor spaces. During visits, the settlement workers observed that tenement children played on the crowded streets. "In the midst of the pushcart market, with its noise, confusion and jostling . . ." (p. 72), the children had to precariously perch their checkerboards on the tops of hydrants, knocked over by the crowds and patiently replaced by the children. Children were arrested for throwing a ball, especially on Sundays (Wald, 1915). The Henry Street settlement workers created a mini-playground in their backyard, which was so popular that children lined up at the gate and down the street to use it. Wald (1915) suggested that little girls with babies in their arms would have priority to enter, and as a result, many girls "borrowed" babies from tenement neighbors to go to the front of the line. The settlement workers also mobilized the construction of the first New York City municipal park, which was built by tearing down dilapidated tenement houses. Additionally, they persuaded the police to block streets from traffic for safe play.


Visitors created an acceptance of safe and open outdoor spaces for children. (Reproduced with permission: Jane Addams Memorial Collection, JAMC negative 437, Special Collections, University Library, University of Illinois at Chicago.)

Compulsory Education Movement's Contribution to Home Visits

In 1906, Mary Marot, a Hartley House settlement worker, assumed the new title of "Visiting Teacher." Her role was to be a liaison between two neighborhood schools and the community. This job was created to respond to the changes brought about by compulsory attendance laws and to reach out to the large influx of immigrant families from southern and eastern Europe (Johnson, 1916; Oppenheimer, 1925; Wasik, Bryant, & Lyons, 1990). "Visiting Teachers," as a profession, thus originated as a part of a settlement house program activity.

Soon after, in January 1907, a visiting teacher committee was formed, and it was incorporated by an organization called the Public Education Association. This association employed Jane Day as a visiting teacher, who then teamed up with Julia Richman, the first woman District School Superintendent of New York City, to make visiting teachers an integral component of the services offered by public education (Johnson, 1916; Oppenheimer, 1925).

Purpose of Home-Community Visits

The overall purpose of the visiting teachers' home-community visits was to promote compulsory education for children in public schools and to provide support services for their academic achievement. Oppenheimer (1925) identified the following specific reasons for the development of the visiting teacher as a new field:

(1) social conditions and educational requirements demand close relationships between the home and the school; (2) the increase in the amount of work and in types of activity that teachers must perform curtails their opportunities of knowing the outside life of their pupils; (3) the present emphasis upon taking into account individual differences and promoting the growth of every child requires some means of knowing and shaping the out-of-school life of the child; (4) the development of modern psychology and social case work provides methods of diagnosis and treatment which are applicable to problems of maladjustment; and (5) the school as the agent of the state in the promotion of public welfare is considered a strategic agency in the fostering of good citizenship and in preventing social maladjustments. (p. 99)

Procedures of Home-Community Visits

The first step was the referral process conducted during the early morning conferences, before the children entered the building. The visiting teachers spent their early mornings conferring with classroom teachers about children "because in that way there is less chance for misstatement of the difficulty. An accurate statement of the facts saves the visiting teacher embarrassment later in the home" (Oppenheimer, 1925, p. 127). Additionally, when necessary, these conferences were also attended by parents and school principals.

The second step was to interview the child at school, although not necessarily only during class time. Interviews were also conducted before school, at noon, during recess, and during health examinations. The goal of these interviews was to win the child's confidence and to relieve the child's fears that the visiting teacher was preparing to dispense some form of punishment. Johnson (1916) advocated that the visiting teacher, when engaged in the interview process, critically reflect on the linkages between (1) the child's adjustment at school, home, and community; and (2) the parent's and teacher's values regarding work, schooling, and child's capabilities. Therefore, she needed toconsider issuessuch as "how far the school maladjustment repeats itself in his outside life. What kind of member of society is he? How is he regarded by his family and his mates? What tastes or interests does he show and what capabilities and aptitudes in the world where he is not judged by academic standards? To what extent are these interests and these aptitudes made part of the school life? How can school requirements be modified or supplemented to adjust the immediate difficulty and to bring the child into more harmonious relationship with his school environment? What are his home conditions?" (Johnson, 1916, p. 6).

The third step was that the visiting teacher flexibly schedule multiple visits to homes, agencies, and other community settings. Their outside contacts included services in public health, financial assistance, and recreation for children. Oppenheimer (1925) mentioned these multiple settings when stating:

Sometimes the investigation leads the visitor to the place of employment of the mother or father, to the homes of older sisters or brothers, or to neighbors. Frequently night calls or Sunday calls are made, when all members of the family are at home. The reactions of the family when all are together is an important factor in the diagnosis of many cases.

In some cases, because of the interview and home visit, the visiting teacher may think it advisable to call the social service exchange to find out what social agencies have known the family or are interested in them at the time. If the social exchange reports that other agencies are interested, the visiting teacher proceeds to find out what they have done in regard to the situation. (p. 129)

Visits to homes, vocational guidance officers, juvenile courts, and outside agencies involved about half of the visiting teachers' working time. The other half was spent on interviewing children, classroom teachers, the principal, attendance officers, and the nurse in the school. These teachers preferred afternoons for visiting new immigrant families because more mothers were home at that time, and there was less of a chance of disturbing either parent who needed to sleep later into the morning after working the night shift (Oppenheimer, 1925).

The fourth step for the home visitor was to decide the intervention strategy. They strove to be preventive rather than corrective (Nudd, 1916). Prevention meant visiting and establishing "friendly relations with the homes of those children who exhibit the first symptoms of falling below the school standard in scholarship and conduct. She uses every available means to make the child's surroundings a help rather than a menace to his educational progress. Equally important, she brings back to the school an account of the individual characteristics which intimate acquaintance with the children has shown to exist, and reports such of the social conditions as indicate the district's general educational needs" (Swan, 1916, p. xi).


This photograph shows an interior of a home that a visitor would have encountered.

"Every available means" and "prevention" suggest inevitable complexity, as recorded in the case of Miriam, a child in grade 6 who took charge of the household after the death of her mother. Miriam was on the street at night where some of her peers used her as a shield to cover their misdeeds. The visiting teacher provided a host of services including locating a job for the father, moving the family to better quarters, ensuring that Miriam was assigned to a sympathetic teacher, and enlisting tutoring for her. Swan (1916) wrote: "In this case, however, it was not a question of one or two visits which the class teacher could have made after school hours, but rather of a long series of visits, covering a period of two years, not only to the home, but to the agencies that could be of practical assistance in the case. During this period Miriam had had at least four [classroom] teachers" (p. xiii).

Miriam's mini case study also exemplifies the following description of "personal supervision." Personal supervision meant actively mentoring and teaching the child; dealing with the child's personality; taking a personal interest in the child over several years; and seeking commitments from schools, homes, and agencies for the child's optimal development. Levine and Levine (1992) state that the help was concrete, personal, and exhaustive. Johnson (1916) and Oppenheimer (1925) evaluated this approach as the most effective strategy used by these early practitioners and also the most frequently used strategy.

Swan (1916) documents the intervention procedures to be relevant, sensitive, and respectful of the family context. Angelina, a 10-year-old, third-grade student, came from a home where the mother "took coats" from a garment factory to supplement the family's income. Angelina had to sew all afternoon in addition to helping with the housework before school. These morning chores meant that she arrived late for class on a daily basis. As a result, "each morning began with a reproof from the teacher and the school work was taken up by a discouraged child" (p. xiii).

The visiting teacher devised and carried out a plan of action. She persuaded the mother to allow Angelina to read for 30 minutes each day. Moreover, the reading was to be done outside on the fire escape so that Angelina could get some much needed daylight and fresh air. Finally, the mother was asked to send Angelina to school on time.


Angelina sat on a fire escape in a tenement house similar to the one in this photograph. (Reproduced with permission: Jane Addams Memorial Collection, JAMC negative 314, Special Collections, University Library, University of Illinois at Chicago.)

At the same time, the teacher was apprised of the home situation. She was asked to be patient with the tardiness while the mother was endeavoring to comply. Rather than chronic criticism, Angelina received praise for improvement. In time, the tardiness ceased. Angelina was permitted an hour of outdoor play each day at home. She was relieved of the sewing work. The additional reading practice also showed results. Her schoolwork improved so significantly that she was transferred to a special class where she completed two grades in one year.

Outcomes of Home-Community Visits

Johnson (1916) stated that from 1913 to 1914, according to home visitors' reports, their visits had "desired results" in 80% of the 873 children in the New York public schools. One of the desired outcomes was correcting or preventing academic failure, and personal supervision was stated as the most effective method employed to overcome this failure.

From 1919 to 1920, Oppenheimer compared the scholastic achievement of children who had received the additional services of visiting teachers to a matched group of children who were enrolled in the same classrooms, had received the same marks previously, and had received the same classroom instruction, but had not received home visiting services. The children in the home-community visit intervention group were specifically referred because of their academic difficulties-for they were considered the most likely to fail the grade. After 2 semesters of intervention, these children had 19% more promotions than the matched control group. Sixty percent of the students under home visitors' supervision improved their grades within the first semester, while only 38% of the children in the control group improved their grades. During the second semester, the figures were 80% and 61%, respectively (Oppenheimer, 1925).

Oppenheimer (1925) conducted another study on the opinions of the visiting teachers, with a total caseload of 1,013 children from 71 classrooms. Regardless of the reasons for referral, 74% of their students showed improvement; an additional 18% showed partial improvement, while only 8% showed no improvement.

Implications for Contemporary Education: Lessons Learned

Lesson 1: Home-Community Visits Are a Tried and Tested Strategy

Home-community visiting is now being presented as "a new profession" by many (e.g., Klass, 1996, p. 69)-perhaps because providing home visits is becoming a full-time job for some early childhood interventionists and the primary method of delivery in some programs (for example, supporting new or expectant parents, Dawson et al., 1991; infant mental health, Sia & Breakey, 1985; and early childhood/special education, Clark, 1986; McBride & Peterson, 1997). However, home visiting is not a new occupation. Mary Richmond recognized it as an arduous profession as early as 1912, and she wrote a handbook on how to seriously, systematically, and scientifically conduct friendly visits among the poor (Richmond, 1912).

Historical research confirms the presence of home-community visits since the advent of formal early childhood education in the United States. Ross (1976) states that "women saw the boundaries of their duties extended into the home and the community" (p. 41). Thus, these pioneers had an expanded view of their role beyond the classroom. Even today, Bhavnagri and Vaswani (1999) emphasize that in order for tomorrow's teachers to function effectively in the 21st century, they too will be expected to have an expanded role, which will include working with families and communities.

Lesson 2: Home-Community Visits Are a Primary Strategy in Family-Focused Programs

Many programs for young children are now family focused, and educators do regular home visits-for example, Missouri State's "Parents as Teachers" Project (Wagner & Clayton, 1999). This trend is particularly true of early childhood special education programs, due to public law 94-142 and public law 94-457 (see Neisworth & Fewell, 1991, for examples). The current philosophical approach to working with young children is to provide support services and enable families to optimally utilize resources (e.g., Bryant, Ramey, Sparling, & Wasik, 1987; Dunst, Trivette, & Deal, 1988).Klass (1996), in a recent book fully devoted to home visiting, recommends that in order to serve children and families, the professional visitors network with community agencies, institutions, and organizations to reduce any barriers to services. This networking is exactly what the "kindergartners" (Hill, 1972; Ross 1976; Wiggin, 1923), settlement workers (Addams, 1910; Wald, 1915), and visiting teachers (Oppenheimer, 1925) were doing, and thus we can learn from their struggles, efforts, and accomplishments.

Lesson 3: Home-Community Visits Are an Effective Strategy with At-Risk Children

Working with families is one of the most effective ways to enhance the competencies and achievement of "at-risk" children from low-income families with limited education (see, e.g., National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983; U.S. Department of Education, 1987). This finding is frequently translated into offering parent education in group meetings. However, these meetings, which are a traditional mode of parent participation (Powell, 1989), are typically poorly attended, especially by those parents whose children could benefit the most. This article documents that early childhood professionals in the past also worked with very poor and uneducated parents(Aiello, 1991), who had low motivation to enroll their children in early childhood and early elementary education (Bodnar, 1991), and who viewed schooling as supplementary, external, and unrelated to making a real living (Handlin, 1982; Riis, 1970). However, early childhood professionals were effective in reaching out to these parents through frequent home and community visits. The lesson to be learned from the history of these visits is that although they are very time-consuming and labor intensive, they are an effective strategy for working with hard-to-reach, uninformed parents with limited education and low motivation-especially in inner-city neighborhoods.


Visitors saw children lingering in the street.

Lesson 4: Home-Community Visits Teach Us How to Promote Total Development

The history of home-community visits provides insight into how the pioneers strategized to promote "total development" of the "whole child," an approach that is currently advocated in the field of early childhood education (Barbour & Seefeldt, 1993; Bredekemp & Copple, 1997; Hart, Burts, & Charlesworth, 1997; Hendrick, 1996, 1998). Kindergartners, settlement workers, and visiting teachers not only addressed the academic component of education but also promoted the physical development of children by improving their health and nutrition, reducing infant mortality, and promoting sanitation. They promoted children's socioemotional development by educating parents on positive guidance, democratic discipline, and conflict resolution within families. They further educated the families regarding the child's cognitive development by demonstrating the educational value of play and the fine arts.

Lesson 5: Home-Community Visits Teach Us How to Work with Non-English-Speaking Children

The pioneers faced the challenge of working with children and their families who were "foreigners" and did not speak English (Hunt, 1976). Additionally, some of the families (e.g., Italians from the provinces of south Naples and from Sicily) had not been exposed to universal democratic education and had governments in their own countries that did not foster democratic participation (Berrol, 1991). Furthermore, many parents of these children came from rural areas and had very little education themselves.Therefore, the purposes of home-community visits were to (1) teach English, (2) inculcate democratic values, and (3) help the families adjust to their new country by "Americanizing" them. Today, teachers are facing similar challenges. Fix and Zimmermann (1993) state: "Immigrants now account for 35 percent of the net annual population increase in the United States; immigrants and their children account for more than 50 percent. . . . the number of first- and second-generation immigrants ages 5 to 14 . . . will almost double in the next 20 years and will account for more than half of the increase in that population cohort" (p. 18). It is estimated that children whose first language is other than English will grow by at least 35% by 2000 (National Association for Bilingual Education, 1992). Since the historical perspective on home-community visits suggests that home-community visits were successful in reaching out to diverse new populations during the Reform Era, today's teachers may also effectively reach recent immigrants by conducting home and community visits.

Lesson 6: Home-Community Visits Teach Us How to Integrate Research and Practice

Although research and practice are two separate activities, the early home-visiting pioneers conducted action research during visits to solve their daily work-related problems, demonstrating that the two activities can be combined. Kindergartners, settlement workers, and visiting teachers continuously made observations, informal interviews, need assessments, and household surveys of the community. Based on their findings, they provided multiple services that (1) improved health, nutrition, and sanitation; (2) provided playgrounds and parks; (3) counseled individuals to resolve family conflicts; (4) designed professional associations as support networks; and (5) built school-business partnerships to support children's education. Kindergartners, settlement workers, and visiting teachers not only interviewed their focal child but his or her brothers, sisters, parents, and neighbors in homes, parks, school playgrounds, shops, and streets. Thus, they used multiple research methods, referred to multiple sources, in multiple settings, to have multiple outcomes. This comprehensive approach is similar to what is called "triangulation" today, and it is highly recommended in qualitative research (Yin, 1994). Thus, these pioneers are role models for today's practitioners, who are expected to solve their daily problems by doing similar qualitative "action research" in their natural settings.

Lesson 7: Home-Community Visits Teach Us How to Develop Interagency and Interprofessional Collaboration

The kindergartners, settlement workers, and visiting teachers demonstrated that they truly believed and implemented what is called today interagency and interprofessional collaboration. The history of their visitations reported here is replete with examples of collaboration with businessmen, legislatures, school superintendents, physicians, nurses, dentists, health-sanitation inspectors, juvenile court officials, municipal staff (e.g., officials on housing standards, traffic, parks, and recreation), and social service workers in agencies (e.g., Salvation Army, Catholic Aide Society, and the Anti-Filth Society). Thus, they were able to provide what is now called "wraparound programs" or "family-centered, community-based, integrated, and full-service education" (Corrigan, 1996; Corrigan & Udas, 1996; Dryfoos, 1994; Office of Educational Research and Improvement, 1995). Increasingly, early childhood educators are expected and often required to network and collaborate with other professionals in order to address the needs of the whole child. They are often overwhelmed with these demands and may not know of successful strategies to address these requirements. Today's early childhood professionals can learn from the Reform Era pioneers who found that successful interprofessional collaboration was possible and, most importantly, that face-to-face communication during community visits contributed significantly to making collaboration a feasible venture.

Lesson 8: Home-Community Visits Teach Us How to Understand Emerging Nations

The history of home-community visits is instructional for those who have been raised in industrialized societies and are concerned with the conditions in developing countries. It is helpful to remember that not too long ago many industrialized nations had living conditions similar to those observed today in emerging nations (e.g., abject poverty, congestion, poor sanitation, high infant mortality, child labor, sibling care, limited schooling). Understanding the history of home-community visits can help students; professionals; and volunteers in international education, international development, and international social welfare understand that all societies face similar challenges when they undergo rapid transformation caused by urbanization, industrialization, and migration. On the other hand, for those emerging nations who do not have optimal living conditions, this article may provide hope that someday they will have a better quality of life, with assistance from professionals such as home visitors.

Lesson 9: Home-Community Visits Are Instructional and Inspirational for Educators

The experiences of the pioneers in the home-community visits can be rejuvenating and inspirational for today's educators. The guidelines for teacher preparation programs (e.g., National Association for the Education of Young Children, 1996) and the national standards for early childhood and elementary education (e.g., National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, National Board for Professional Teaching Standards) advocate that teachers be prepared to work with parents and the community(Association for Childhood Education International, 1997a, 1997b). Therefore, the voices of early pioneers reported here could be instructional for student teachers. For neophyte teachers, this research offers a perspective on the roles and responsibilities of an educator, which beginning teachers are unlikely to have acquired on their own. The documentation provided in this article could also help revitalize some cynical, disillusioned, or "burned out" teachers. The commitment, dedication, effort, and energy displayed by these pioneers can strengthen our convictions regarding the merits of doing home and community visits.

Lesson 10: Home Community Visits Can Have Positive Outcomes when Certain Characteristics Are Met

Characteristics that contribute to effective outcomes in contemporary home visits are amply discussed in two theme issues of the Future of Children (Behrman, 1993, 1999). Many of these characteristics were prevalent in pioneering home-community visits, thus suggesting which variables contribute to positive outcomes. For example, Gomby, Larson, Lewit, and Behrman (1993) reported that professionals, such as trained teachers, social workers, and, especially, nurses with expertise in child development and health, had more effective outcomes than paraprofessionals with limited education and expertise. The pioneer home-community visitors were all well-educated, professional teachers, social workers, or nurses. Research reported in the special issues of the Future of Children indicates that high frequency of visitations and intensity of contacts positively influence contemporary results. From all written accounts, the pioneer home-community visitors worked with missionary zeal, and their home-community visits were of such high frequency and intensity that they often moved into given neighborhoods to devote their entire lives to their work.

These researchers also reported that contemporary home visits benefited the neediest but provided little benefit for the broader population. Some of the home visiting model programs that they evaluated did not exclusively target vulnerable families but were seen as a preventive strategy for all families. On the other hand, pioneer home-community visitors exclusively targeted what we today would label "at-risk" families, and this emphasis resulted in noticeably visible, positive outcomes.

The research reported in the special issues of the Future of Children found contemporary home visitors to be more effective if they helped parents access other needed services. Researchers found that family needs must be addressed, not just the child's needs. The research reported also indicated that visitors cannot merely deliver a "canned curriculum"; they must customize and individualize their services. These researchers recommended that home visits include health and support services beyond education. The pioneer home-community visitors implemented these now contemporary recommendations, which contributed to their effectiveness. They taught us how to serve children and families by providing multiple individualized and customized services.

To summarize, Bronfenbrenner (1979) argues that we need to know the child in many informal and intimate settings that he or she directly affects, as well as those settings (besides his formal and structured school environment) that directly affect the child. He calls these multiple settings the child's microsystems. He also states that we need to have strong linkages between the child's many microsystems (i.e., his mesosystem). Most definitely, home-community visits are a highly potent mesosystem because they link the child's microsystems of school, home, and community.


The home-community visit is a highly valuable service-provision strategy because it is an individualized, face-to-face, and bi-directional approach. Most importantly, home-community visits are effective because they are conducted in informal and intimate settings in which the child resides. Unlike other forms of service provision, home-community visits provide a unique learning opportunity for teachers. Teachers who conduct home-community visits gain insight into their students' lives through personally experiencing and witnessing the conditions that affect their students outside of school. Home visits are unlike group meetings, which are not typically highly individualized; phone conferences, which are not face to face; newsletters, which are not typically bi-directional; and parent conferences, which are conducted in formal school settings and not in intimate, residential settings. Additionally, unlike other forms of service provision, home-community visits by their very nature do not focus on the child alone but instead effectively reach out to support the whole family and the community. Finally, as can be seen from this study of home visits during the Reform Era and the implications for contemporary educators, home-community visits are no doubt challenging but nevertheless worth pursuing.


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Author Information

Navaz Peshotan Bhavnagri is an associate professor of Early Childhood Education at Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan. She has served the field of early childhood education for 38 years, of which 30 have been in higher education and the remaining working with young children. She has diverse work experiences in Houston, New York, West Lafayette, Champaign-Urbana, Detroit, and India. She is an author and coauthor of several articles and chapters on topics such as parent-peer linkages, parent-child relationships, home-school-community relationships, parenting stress of African American mothers, culture and infancy, cross-cultural child development, portfolio assessments, program evaluations, and children's literature. She has served on publication committees of Early Childhood Research Quarterly, Early Education and Development, Early Childhood Research & Practice, and Childhood Education.

Navaz Peshotan Bhavnagri
Wayne State University
Education Building
College of Education
Teacher Education Division #285
Detroit, MI 48202
Fax: 313-577-4091
Email: nbhavna@wayne.edu

Sue Krolikowski is a doctoral student in Early Childhood Education at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. She previously taught kindergarten and Title 1 reading in the Detroit Public Schools, and she has presented at national conferences. She is the author of "Building Bridges to Reading," a paper presented at an annual convention of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). She was also one of eight national winners of an essay contest about using trade books with children that was sponsored by NCTE and the Children's Book Council.

Sue Krolikowski
Wayne State University
Education Building
College of Education
Detroit, MI 48202
Fax: 313-577-4091
Email: tkroliko@ameritech.net