The home visitor needs different skills to engage different families. Home visitors can improve the quality of their practice with families by increasing their knowledge and appreciation of different cultures. Increased sensitivity to cultural differences and to families’ home language(s) can help home visitors more fully engage with families, better understand family actions and interactions, and make culturally responsive planning decisions. Most important, the home visitor needs to be able to respond tothe unique needs and interests of the family while maintaining a focus on child development experiences.Parenting is a wonderful but challenging experience that can become overwhelming when families are struggling with homelessness, food insecurity, eviction, medical problems, violence, mental illness, substance abuse, or subsistence issues.
You come into the family’s home weekly, exploring their child’s growth and development and helping parents explore how their relationship supports their child’s development.
Your first task is creating and maintaining a relationship with the family. You partner with the family to understand their hopes and expectations for their child. As you observe and interact with the family and child together, you help the parents maintain an accurate understanding of their child’s learning and development. Research studies consistently show that the most important role of a home visitor is structuring child-focused home visits that promote parents’ ability to support the child’s cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development.
When a parent is distracted by personal concerns or crises, you balance listening to the parent and honoring their choice to share concerns with you, while eventually bringing the focus back to the child. After assisting a parent in exploring relevant resources and supports, you might say, “This sounds like a very hard time for you. I can see how upset you are. In fact, I’ve been watching the baby and he looks very concerned about your feelings now. What do you think it’s like for him to see you so upset?”
You also take every opportunity to notice and remark on positive actions or interactions on the part of the parent, bringing a strength-based perspective building on the parent’s role as their child’s first and most important relationship. “It’s wonderful how you already know how to comfort her.”
In addition to your work on child development, you work with other program staff and community partners to coordinate such services as health, mental health, and oral health services for the family. You offer annual health, vision, hearing, and developmental screening. An important aspect of your work with some families is having strategies and resources for managing a crisis.
In an ongoing way, you help the family move forward with their goals for well-being, economic stability, and self-sufficiency.