6 Elements of a Home Visit

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There are required elements of a home visit for Head Start defined in the Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS). Home visitors must be trained and the content of the visit planned jointly with the parents and the home visitors. Home visits must be conducted with the parents. Home visits must be conducted with the parents because the goal is to increase or build on the parents existing skills. The home visitor and the parent should work together to create educational opportunities for the child’s learning and development. These opportunities should take advantage of the routines and environments the child is in the most, for example daily meals at home. The home visitor also supports parents as they pursue education and life skills and comprehensive health services for themselves and their children as part of the child and family goals.

The necessary elements of a home visit in Early Head Start are defined in Child Development Services During Home Visits and Socializations in the Early Head Start Home-Based Program Option, ACYF-IM-HS-00-22.This Information Memorandum (IM) from the Office of Head Start described the following child development services.

Curriculum Planning

Secure parent–child relationships have been established as a primary factor in developing healthy brains that are able to focus, remember, learn, and participate in relationships. Particularly in Early Head Start, your most important work is supporting a secure child–parent relationship. You begin by establishing your own relationship with the parent and use that as both a model and a foundation for the parent’s sensitive and responsive relationship with the child, and you find every opportunity to help each parent and child take pleasure in being together.

One way you do that is by making sure the parent has the opportunity to explore where the child is developmentally and how to support that development. A process that helps create that understanding is joint planning with the family for the home visits.Your program, in a process including the parents, has chosen a curriculum that is “based on scientifically valid research, and ... age and developmentally appropriate” [Head Start Act, 640(o)]. You will use that curriculum as a foundation for choosing experiences to introduce during home visits. However, a published curriculum is only one aspect of the planning process. Together with the parents, you

  • share observations about the child’s current abilities and interests,

  • draw on your own knowledge of child development and experience with what interests infants and toddlers, and

  • incorporate the family’s interests, cultural practices, routines, and environment.

Curriculum Experiences

The time you spend in the home supports the child’s ongoing learning by working with parents as they refine skills in interacting with the child in learning opportunities. As a way of supporting the parent as the “most important relationship and first teacher,” your primary strategy during the home visit is to help the parents conduct all experiences and interactions with your guidance and support.To assure that families are able to take advantage of ongoing learning opportunities, you will introduce ideas for using everyday routines and the home as a learning environment. The curriculum used for home visits includes language and literacy, gaining knowledge, physical abilities, social and emotional skills, and supporting the ways the child learns. With encouragement and suggestions, you can help the family use rich, responsive language in these everyday moments, encourage them to share books with their children, appreciate the value of their home language, and experience the wonder and discovery as they see the world through their child’s eyes.

Ongoing Assessment and Individualized Services

Thorough understanding of each child requires an initial developmental screening and observation, either within two weeks of their birth or within 45 days of enrollment. Ongoing assessment and curriculum planning for school readiness is a requirement of the HSPPS and can be done on both a formal and informal basis. As a home visitor, you have the opportunity for regular one-on-one observation of the child and ongoing conversations with the parents about the child’s developing skills. This can be the basis for completing the formal assessment tool(s) that must meet certain standards showing that they reliably measure learning and development. Ongoing assessment of a child's status and progress includes direct assessment, structured observations, checklists, staff or parent report measures, and portfolio records or work samples” (45 CFR 1307, 1307.2). It assures that you and the family have an understanding of the child’s abilities, interests, and challenges. The assessment tools inform your curriculum planning for experiences, interactions, and parent information for meeting child development and school readiness goals. The goals for each child are established with the parents.

“Home visitors work closely with parents to ensure that goals and experiences are congruent with the family's culture; build on children's interests and abilities; promote curiosity and positive views about themselves and about learning; and use responsive interactions as the primary vehicle for learning.”(Child Development Services During Home Visits and Socializations in the Early Head Start Home-Based Program Option, ACYF-IM-HS-00-22)