2 Introduction

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Your work as a home visitor is complex, delicate, intense, challenging, and rewarding. You are working closely with families at a time when they are undergoing enormous changes and want to do what they can to support the well-being of their child. However, they are also likely to be under considerable stress in the beginning, lacking sleep, experiencing changes in their relationships, and feeling the complete responsibility of this vulnerable new being or the challenge of a toddler asserting her independence. Families bring different resources and have different stressors, and each family brings its own unique culture to this experience.

Families with preschoolers are supporting their children at a time when they are developing new skills across all developmental areas, experiencing a variety of new environments (e.g., a child care program, a preschool program, community recreation programs), and expanding their social networks. Families are likely seeking assistance with finding and navigating these new experiences, advocating for their child, and helping their child prepare for current and future experiences.

The home-based program option is one of three service delivery models used by Head Start and Early Head Start, programs serving expectant families, infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and their families. In the home-based model, comprehensive services are provided within the family’s own home and within the context of the parent–child relationship. The home-based program team, which is comprised of your director, area managers, supervisor, mental health consultant, colleagues, and community partners, works with you to provide comprehensive services, an evidence-based approach, professional development, and ongoing support.

Home-based services are very personal. You work directly with the parents, the most important people in the world to the child, in the environment that is most familiar and has the most meaning to both the child and the parents. Promoting secure parent–child interactions and school readiness experiences in the home provide a foundation for parents to weave learning moments into the family’s daily routines. Parents are the child’s first and primary teachers. The family’s and child’s goals for their work within the program are rooted in their culture, beliefs, and values. The home environment provides valuable information about how services can be delivered in a culturally responsive manner. As a home visitor, you strive to understand the family and its culture’s practices, experiences, and norms. The home environment may offer insights as to how best to support the family in using its strengths to meet its goals.

This work is so significant because of the profound importance of pregnancy, the newborn period, and the first five years of life for the child’s lifelong development, the growth of each family member’s skills and abilities to promote that development, and the quality of the parent–child relationship. As evidence continues to demonstrate that early experiences are vital for the healthy development of the brain, we increasingly appreciate the opportunities that Head Start and Early Head Start programs offer families.