A sustainable, scalable, virtual home visiting App to reach and serve the children and families living in "early learning deserts."
Updates: How has your idea changed or evolved throughout the Prize? What updates have you made to this submission? (1500 characters)
We refined our project in a variety of ways: through mentorship, user centered research, and the human centered tool kit.
1) We added background information about the importance and model of home visiting in order to make our proposal better suited to an audience with a variety of backgrounds.
2) We conducted expert interviews. We reached out to and interviewed our Home Visitors, parents, and a Home Visitor that was a previous client before becoming a Home Visitor herself. Respondents gave us feedback on the types of services that would be best delivered through this model, brainstormed creative funding ideas, and all strongly felt that this should be an App. We have updated the project proposal with their feedback and have decided to model Virtual MOMobile as an App.
3) We explored the field to investigate where similar work is being done. We attended conference talks about the use of an App in delivering therapeutic support services to women who are newly released from prison and a presentation about the use of telehealth in the Parents as Teachers model. We learned a great deal from these talks and realized that we needed to build a stronger network of support to monitor fidelity. We updated our proposal to include the use of our established research partnership network as a way to support prototyping Virtual MOMobile.
4) We clarified and added revenue streams that will create a self-sustaining Virtual MOMobile.
5) We decided that we need to base Virtual MOMobile on an established home visiting curriculum and added that we will be using the Healthy Families America curriculum, which we have experience delivering through traditional in person home visiting.
Name or Organization
Maternity Care Coalition
We will initially prototype with families in Southeastern Pennsylvania.
What is your stage of development?
Advanced Innovator with 3 to 10+ years of experience in ECD
What is the stage of your proposal?
Research & Early Testing: I am exploring my idea, gathering the inspiration and information I need to test it with real users.
Describe how your solution could be a game-changer for your selected Opportunity Area (600 characters)
Across the country there are large numbers of parents and children living in poverty who do not have access to quality early childhood education, specifically home visiting. These families are often concentrated in high poverty areas. We dub the areas where families do not have access to these services “early learning deserts." Virtual MOMobile aims to utilize social media in an innovative way to reach and deliver virtual early childhood education and home visiting services to children and families living in “early learning deserts" through an interactive App.
Select an Innovation Target
Technology-enabled: Existing approach is more effective or scalable with the addition of technology
Tell us more about your innovation (1500 characters)
Virtual MOMobile aims to utilize social media in an innovative way to deliver virtual early childhood education and home visiting services to children and families living in “early learning deserts.” This virtual, engaging, and interactive home visiting App will dramatically expand the number of families receiving home visiting services while addressing some of the challenges associated with traditional in person home visiting.
Virtual MOMobile has 4 goals:
1) Provide virtual home visiting services to children and families living in “early learning deserts."
2) Maternity Care Coalition Home Visitors will deliver a high quality interactive early childhood education curriculum (such as Partner's for a Healthy Baby), the Healthy Families American Program, and connections to local resources to families enrolled in Virtual MOMobile services.
3) Families receiving MOMobile services will be connected to other families with children between the ages of 0 to 3 through Virtual MOMobile’s use of social media.
4) The self-sustaining business model of Virtual MOMobile will uncouple home visiting from federal and foundation funding, allowing the practice of home visiting to reach increasing number of families in need.
What problem are you aiming to solve? (3 sentences)
This virtual home visiting program will reach low income families living in poverty who are not currently accessing the limited amount of early education home visiting programs. This service will connect young families and break down the social isolation barriers commonly experienced by parents of young children living in these areas. Finally, this innovative approach will reach young parents through a vehicle in which they are familiar (social media) while creating a sustainable service model.
Explain your idea (5000 characters)
Currently only 5% of children ages 0-3 living 200% below the federal poverty line in Philadelphia are receiving evidence-based home visiting. This leaves large pockets of the city where there are "early learning deserts." We realize that these “early learning deserts” are not unique to the Philadelphia and Southeastern Pennsylvania regions. Although Maternity Care Coalition (MCC) is a large provider of home visiting services we recognize that with the current funding environment, and with the current model of home visiting, we will never be able to reach all of the families with children between the ages of 0 and 3 in Philadelphia and nationwide.
The current model of home visiting is based on a Home Visitor visiting the family in their home anywhere between 1 to 4 times per month depending on the home visiting program. During visits the Home Visitor serves the family in several ways. Services include: providing a high quality early childhood education curriculum, providing information on child health, wellbeing and safety, providing breastfeeding and nutrition information, providing resources and links to social resources, providing guidance in housing, insurance, and child care, meeting mental health needs, and helping parents develop family and child development based goals. Outcomes from home visiting services include improved child, family, and maternal outcomes. Currently most of the financial support for traditional home visiting is tied to government spending. Given the uncertainty of government funding, the demands of traditional home visiting, and the increasing numbers of families that would benefit from access to home visiting we at MCC realize that a new model of home visiting must be developed.
It is with this in mind that we have developed Virtual MOMobile. MOMobile, was an innovative home visiting program initially developed at MCC in the 1980s. With brightly colored “MOMobile” vans MCC Home Visitors would travel to high poverty areas in the city to reach families in need of prenatal and early childhood support. With the Virtual MOMobile we will again attempt to reach young families in need of support where they are most comfortable, where they are spending their free time, and where they draw social support: on social media.
This free, virtual, engaging, and interactive home vising App will reach parents who are not currently receiving home visiting services. Virtual MOMobile will provide several services to families and will be based on the evidence based home visiting model Health Families America (HFA). HFA employs a dual generation approach working with both parents and children. Home visiting services begin during a mother’s pregnancy and continue until the child turns 3. HFA emphasizes parent engagement, parent-child interaction, parental knowledge of child development, health education, and connection to community-based health and social services. HFA is rooted in the belief that early, nurturing relationships are the foundation for a child’s life-long, healthy development. Interactions between HFA Advocates and families are relationship-based, strength-based, family-centered, culturally sensitive, and designed to empower caregivers.
Virtual MOMobile Services will include:
• Face to Face Virtual Home Visits: Families will be able to virtual connect, face to face, with their Home Visitor for their scheduled home visits.
• Interactive Early Childhood Curriculum: Home Visitor will implement an interactive curriculum where families will be able to interact with the Home Visitor and other families across communication boards.
• Family Connections: Communication areas will allow parents to connect with parents of other children to share success and troubleshoot common challenges related to early childhood.
• Resource Wall: Resource area will be continuously updated by Home Visitor and will be a location where parents can learn about and share local resources.
• Parenting Podcasts and Videos: Guest speakers will host podcasts based on topics that interest parents in the areas of child development, parenting, safety, and early education. These podcasts will be tied to local advertising and events, will lead to self-sustainability.
Although we plan to initially prototype Virtual MOMobile in Southeastern Pennsylvania we plan to expand Virtual MOMobile nationally and globally and to include additional services areas. Potential additional service areas include:
• Face to face warm lines to lactation consultants, pediatric nurses, and nutritionists
• Increased educational components: child birth education classes, positive parenting groups etc.
• Special interest communication boards: teen parents, single parents, first time parents, fathers, healthy eating groups
• Community swap board to share gently used baby equipment
• Links to libraries to provide virtual story times and ebooks
Who benefits? (1500 characters)
Maternity Care Coalition (MCC) has responded to the need for support for children and families since 1980. MCC is a community-based nonprofit organization serving pregnant and postpartum women, and families with children ages 0-3, in underserved communities in Southeastern PA. Through several evidence-based home visiting models including Early Head Start, Healthy Families America, Healthy Start, and our MOMobile Program, MCC's highly trained Home Visitors deliver intensive, trauma informed and culturally appropriate home visiting services to high-risk families to support behavioral health changes and improve family wellbeing.
The beneficiaries of the Virtual MOMobile App will be children and families living in "early learning deserts" in Philadelphia and surrounding counties. Although we will initially focus on our current service area we hope to expand this service to a national and international audience. Participating families will benefit from the Virtual MOMobile by having frequent, direct, and high quality interactions with a Home Visitor who will guide and educate them about early childhood education through a virtual home visiting model. Beneficiaries will be connected to local resources and services to address the challenges associated with living in poverty. Families will have access to a quality interactive early childhood education curriculum, the HFA program, as well as the opportunity to interact with other families with children between the ages of 0 and 3
What kind of impact will your idea have? (1500 characters)
The impact of effective home visiting programs, like the programs Maternity Care Coalition (MCC) currently provides, have lasting positive impacts on the lives of children and families. Families benefit from education and connections to local resources while children receive lifelong social, cognitive, academic, and emotional benefits. However, there are not enough home visiting programs or enough funding opportunities to provide these types of services to all families with young children. Further, funding is typically dependent on fluctuating government based funding sources.
The lack of quality, affordable early childhood education is one of the most pressing concerns of the communities MCC serves. Our research indicates that only 5% of children in our service area are in contact with early education home visiting services. We will reach the remaining 95% of children living in these “early learning deserts” through our innovative virtual home visiting App, Virtual MOMobile. This virtual App will have 3 large impacts.
1) Through increased service delivery, via virtual delivery of the HFA model, we will create positive changes in the lives of dramatically more children and families.
2) The classic home visiting service model will be revolutionized and a movement toward an inclusive virtual service delivery model will be activated.
3) A sustainable home visiting model will be developed that relies less heavily on government and foundational funding sources.
How does or how could your idea impact low-income children? (1500 characters)
With the Virtual MOMobile App we will directly serve the children and families who are living in underserved communities in Southeastern Pennsylvania. In Philadelphia County alone, 37.1% of children under age five live in economically high-risk families (100% of the Federal Poverty Level). The surrounding counties have similar challenges: high family and child poverty, family and child food insecurity, high rates of unemployment, and racial disparities in child outcomes. Although we will attempt to reach all families with children between 0-3 with Virtual MOMobile, we will place a special emphasis on reach children living in poverty as they are most at risk for later negative outcomes from poor early childhood experiences.
We will succeed in our goal of reaching these families by designing Virtual MOMobile services to be free of charge for low income families. We are aware that there may be barriers to technology but are confident that providing a free services to these family will eliminate access, economic, and transportation barriers that they may have in obtaining early childhood education services. To briefly explore technology use we have conducted an internal review of the families who are currently enrolled in services provided by Maternity Care Coalition. Results revealed that almost all families have access to a smart phone. With this information we are confident that families will be able to access Virtual MOMobile on their devices if services are free.
Innovation: What makes your concept innovative? (5000 characters)
Inherent to its name, home visiting has traditionally required home visitors to enter their client’s home. Although this method has been successful for certain groups of families as technology has developed and family’s needs have evolved over time this traditional method can be supplemented and enhanced for certain families with young children. Virtual MOMobile is a new way of engaging families and will apply a new business model to this established early intervention. Further, as we establish and develop this innovative App we anticipate being able to expanding and better serve unique populations such as incarcerated families, migrant worker families, and military families.
When interviewed, Home Visitors state that challenges surrounding home visiting include the time required to travel from home to home, the concerns that families have with strangers entering their home, the difficulty of reaching families who work long hours, and the inability to reach families that have the highest need. Low income and high need families often associate visitors coming into their home with child welfare services. Additionally, families are hesitant to have home visitors into their home for various privacy reasons. Home visitors explain that it is hard to reach migrant families, families in unstable housing, families living in non-service areas, and undocumented families. Home Visitors state that non documented and immigrant families worry that home visiting will draw attention to the authorities.
Virtual MOMobile is a new, innovative way, to deliver crucial home visiting services to families in need while overcoming these barriers. By delivering home visiting services through an App platform Home Visitors will be able to reach many more families in a day, will be able to serve undocumented families without notice, and will be able to serve migrant or transient families who frequently change their housing situations. Additionally, this service will be able to reach families who work long hours by reaching them in a way that does not require that they be home. The key to Virtual MOMobile App is that it will take traditional impactful home visiting services and updates the model by which they are delivered thereby increasing the accessibility of home visiting services to greater numbers of families.
Additionally, as technology has evolved it has become clear that traditional home visiting services do not meet the need of all families with young children. This generation of young parents is more likely to spend their free time on social media and are more likely to reach out for parenting support through online contacts. When interviewed, Home Visitors state that clients are more likely to be active on social media than at in person parent group socializations that they arrange. Additionally, they feel that families in low income areas are particularity at risk for social isolation due to their housing situations and potentially dangerous neighborhoods. Virtual MOMobile will capitalize on young families’ interests by transitioning home visiting services to a virtual App based platform where families are more likely to engage. Facilitating interactions between families in a digital platform will break down the social isolation that families in low income areas often feel.
Virtual MOMobile will also create a new revenue stream for home visiting services by fostering self-sustaining funding. This is very different from tradition funding streams which rely on government and foundation grants. This self-sustained funding model will insulate crucial home visiting services from fluctuations in government funding that occur with administration changes. This self-sustaining funding stream will increase the availability of services to greater numbers of families as home visiting will no longer be tied to a geographic service area. We do not anticipate that Virtual MOMobile will eliminate in person home visiting, a practice that is beneficial for certain groups of parents. Rather we feel as though this service will enhance the practice of home visiting by effectively serving large number of families who may be unable to participate in in person services.
Scale: Describe how your idea could reach a significant number of end-users. (1500 characters)
After prototyping the Virtual MOMobile in Southeastern Pennsylvania we will take MOMobile to the national and international market. Virtual MOMobile is the perfect vehicle for scalability based on its App based platform. Different parts of the App can be customized to the user while more general areas can remain universal to all users. For example, face to face home visits can be conducted by expertly trained Advocates who are not necessarily living in families’ geographical areas. Meanwhile, other areas, such as family message boards and resource boards can be tied directly to families’ specific geographical location.
Virtual MOMobile will be designed to be free to families living in low income areas. In order to make this a reality there are three funding streams that we will generate in order to create a self-sustainable Virtual MOMobile App.
1) Services will be provided on a sliding scale with low income families receiving free services and more affluent families paying an income based service fee.
2) We will approach both local and large sponsors with the opportunity to advertise across the App. This will include local business and retailers and, larger retailers with baby and childhood geared services such as Babies R Us and Johnson and Johnson.
3) We will partner with managed care insurance companies to provide a fee for service model where we connect with, and provide Virtual MOMobile services, to their pregnant clients.
Feasibility: Where are you with understanding the feasibility of your idea? Describe what you’ve done so far and your plans. (3000 characters)
We believe that Virtual MOMobile is a feasible product for scalability and that we are the prime organization to lead this expansion in home visiting. At Maternity Care Coalition (MCC) we have over 30 years of experience in delivering high quality, effective home visiting service to families with children between the ages of 0 and 3 living in poverty. The Virtual MOMobile App is an expansion of our successful home visiting service into a new area, social media. With this funding opportunity we will hire a program staff member who will be directly responsible for acting as the Home Visitor for all families receiving Virtual MOMobile services.
We will also hire a programmer to help us develop this App. We are lucky to be situated in Philadelphia and have a rich connection to local Universities such as the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University, and Bryn Mawr College. Through our established research connections and partnerships we will hire a computer science intern to help us develop this platform.
In addition to a wealth of knowledge surrounding home visiting, MCC is unique in that we also have expertise in research, and program evaluation with an active research advisory board. We are familiar with measuring and determining outcomes from our direct service programs and are well versed in utilizing this data to improve program outcomes. With this knowledge and current program staff we will be able to measure and analyze service delivery outcomes from the Virtual MOMobile App. Additionally, through our rich research network with collaborators at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) PolicyLab, Bryn Mawr College's Center for Family Wellbeing, and home visiting research experts at Lehigh University we already have a strong established foundation for this App. Through collaboration with our research partners at these locations we will develop integrity measures in order to ensure that best practices in home visiting and digital clinical service delivery are followed with fidelity.
In development of the App, we have actively involved stakeholders in group and individual expert interviews. We have interviewed parents and Home Visitors to develop the information and resources that they would find most helpful on this digital platform. Additionally, we have worked closely with current Home Visitors who provide in person home visiting services to determine what characteristics of the virtual platform are necessary to take the human centered practice of home visiting into the digital world. With this information we have crafted a plan for the Virtual MOMobile App that we are excited to prototype. Through these interviews we also determined what funding streams would be most acceptable and appropriate to families and Home Visitors. Given this work we are confident that our plan for prototyping, paired with our three developed funding area, provides a clear path for implementation and sustainability.
Business Viability: How viable is your business model? (5000 characters)
Home visiting has been proven as a successful way to increase both parent and child outcomes. Transitional home visiting services are established as a successful model of early intervention. We feel that our Virtual MOMobile App will add to this well-established practice by increasing the availability of services. Further, the current focus on and general acceptability of technology driven services leads us to feel as though the addition of home visiting to this digital platform will be widely accepted and will gain in popularity.
Virtual MOMobile is built on a solid and well planned business model. Internal research at Maternity Care Coalition has indicated that while not all families have a computer almost all of our clients have smart phone and use them to access social media. We anticipate that our current service demographic is a fairly representative sample of the larger population that we hope to serve.
We anticipate that our largest barrier will be the ability to provide this service for free to high need families and, the ability to create a self-sustaining model. However, as indicated in the scale section we have developed 3 unique funding streams. Of these three models we anticipate the sponsorship stream to be the most crucial and the most difficult to develop. As an organization we have experience working with local business to sponsor our organization and services. Virtual MOMobile will require us to expand to larger sponsors and businesses. We plan to harness our local connections and success to develop partnerships with larger businesses and sponsors.
HCD: How have you used human centered design to build or refine your concept? (5000 characters)
We used human centered design in this project by focusing on our end user and the users (Home Visitors) that we would be asking to deliver these services. We used expert interviews, interviewing parents, current Home Visitors, and a Home Visitor who was once a client. We conducted an interview with almost no questions, we specifically wanted to take our thoughts out of the equation and only interjected when we asked the respondents to expand on an idea or concept. This is what we said to our interviewees:
“We are thinking of new innovative ways to reach families who have young children (or are expecting) and are hoping to rely on your expertise as a (client, Home Visitor, client who became a Home Visitor). We really want this service to meet family’s needs and think that you are an expert in this!
Imagine a virtual way that Maternity Care Coalition would be able to reach families who are not receiving our services either because we don’t have a location in the area, they are unable to work with traditional home visiting hours due to their work schedule, or because they are on our wait lists. If there were no limitations: time, money, or technology, what would you want this virtual service to be able to do and what would it look like?”
This prompt worked to really get our experts to brain storm on what they thought would be most important in an App, versus what we though would be most important. We combined their insights with organization based population data to expand our Virtual MOMobile idea. We also conducted a survey of all of the Home Visitors in the organization to determine whether clients used social media, what types of social media they used, and how they access it. We plan to continue expert interviews, co-creation sessions, and integrate user feedback as we prototype the Virtual MOMobile App.
Tell us more about you (3000 characters)
We developed the idea for MOMobile based on the need that we see with in our local service area. We know that “early learning deserts” are not unique to the Philadelphia area. We were inspired by our clients and their never-ending strengths in the face of challenges to create Virtual MOMobile. We desire to provide more families with information and support that will help them realize their own child’s potential and their potential as their child’s first teacher. The only way to reach the parents that are currently living in “early learning deserts” it to change the practice of home visiting and Virtual MOMobile is how we will be able to do this.
It has been well documented that by the time a child enters pre-school at age 4 the critical brain development laying the ground work for academic and later success has already occurred. Current research demonstrates that essential brain development occurs during pregnancy and through a child's first three years. Waiting until a child enters school to address the impact of extreme poverty, maternal depression, trauma, repeated abuse, and other forms of "toxic stress" that many low-income children face is too late. By this time, children may be experiencing delays in language, social, emotional, and cognitive development. These delays may lead to subsequent problems in school achievement and later success. Support services focused on early childhood education, during the critical period of 0-3, are essential for the improvement of future outcomes of the nation’s most at-risk children. The opportunity to be able to make a difference at such a critical window in a child’s life is what excites us and is why we wake up every morning and come to work.
Maternity Care Coalition (MCC) is a community-based nonprofit organization serving pregnant and postpartum women, and families with children ages 0-3, in underserved communities in Southeastern Pennsylvania. MCC's mission is to improve maternal and child health and wellbeing through the collaborative efforts of individuals, families, providers and communities. MCC operates nine direct service sites, each strategically located in underserved communities, including one in the Philadelphia County jail for women. Through several evidence-based home visiting models including Early Head Start (EHS), Healthy Families America (HFA) and Healthy Start and our MOMobile Program, MCC's highly trained Home Visitors deliver intensive, trauma informed and culturally appropriate services to high-risk families to support behavioral health changes and improve family wellbeing. Home visiting for pregnant women and families with children ages 0-3 is an early intervention strategy shown to positively impact parenting practices, a family's health and wellbeing, and a child's social, emotional and cognitive growth. To ensure the programs are culturally and linguistically appropriate, MCC's Advocates are recruited from the communities they serve.
Do you have the people and partners you need to do what you’ve described? (600 characters)
We currently do not have a team dedicated to technology development and design. We will hire an individual to work with our communications teams to develop the App for Virtual MOMobile. We are lucky to be situated in Philadelphia and have a rich connection to local Universities such as the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University, and Bryn Mawr College. Through our established research connections and partnerships we will hire a computer science intern to help us develop this platform. Once the Virtual MOMobile App is sustained we will convert this to a full time position and department.
Would you like mentoring support?
If so, what type of mentoring support do you think you need? (1200 characters)
We would benefit for mentoring in the area of virtual design. This is a new venture for our organization and we are excited about expanding our service delivery in this area.
Are you willing to share your email contact information submitted on OpenIDEO with Gary Community Investments?
Yes, share my contact information
[Optional] Biography: Upload your biography. Please include links to relevant information (portfolio, LinkedIn profile, organization website, etc).
[Optional] Video: You are invited to submit a 30-60 second video that introduces you and/or your team and your idea.
Mentorship: How was your idea supported? (5000 characters)
We were fortunate to work with Dima Boulad as our mentor. There are several ways in which her support informed our proposal.
1) Dima is an expert in design and is less familiar with home visiting services. In meeting with her we realized that we had to spend a lot of time explaining how home visiting services worked and why they were important. This made it clear to us that we needed to clarify this concept in our application and provide more details and background information. After adding these details we believe that our application is enhanced and better suited to reach a diverse audience.
2) Dima helped us realize that while we had a promising product we had not taken a strong human centered design approach. Realizing that we did not have much time before the final application was due, she recommended that we conduct expert interviews. We reached out and interviewed our Home Visitors, parents, and a Home Visitor that was a previous client before becoming a Home Visitor herself. In these interviews we briefly explained that we were brainstorming a virtual home visiting model and asked our responded to comment on a) if they thought that home visiting services could be delivered this way b) whether they thought there was a need for these virtual services and c) what they would have this service look like if there were no limits to funds or technological services. All of our respondents were excited about a virtual model of home visiting. They felt as though this type of service delivery model is needed now and will become more important in the future. Respondents gave us ideas on the types of services that would be best delivered through this model, brainstormed creative funding ideas, and all strongly felt that this should be an App. We have updated this application with their feedback. We are planning to continue to conduct more expert interviews as we prototype Virtual MOMobile.
3) Dima suggested that we have a developer create a representation of what Virtual MOMobile would look like. Unfortunately, we do not readily have access to a developer. Further, we wanted to hear from experts before we decide what this virtual platform would be. We did however, explore the field and see where similar work is being done. We attended conference talks about the use of an App in delivering services to women who are newly released from prison* and a presentation about the use of telehealth in the Parents as Teachers model**. We learned a great deal from these talks, introduced ourselves to the researchers, and will remain in contact with them as we prototype Virtual MOMobile. This information, along with the feedback from our interviews, lead us to believe that the best way to address this gap in the field is by developing a Virtual MOMobile App. We have updated our application accordingly.
*Mimi Tarrasch, Rachel Delcour, Lindsey Crawford: Women in Recovery
** Angela Rau, MA: Parents as Teachers National Center, Dorian Traube, PhD & Amanda Taylor, MSW: University of Southern California
Name or Organization
Maternity Care Coalition
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
What is your stage of development?
Advanced Innovator with 3 to 10+ years of experience in ECD
What is the stage of your proposal?
Research & Early Testing: I am exploring my idea, gathering the inspiration and information I need to test it with real users.