11.1 Nurturing Home Visitors

What Is It?

You can create a work environment in which home visitors feel safe, validated, embraced, supported, and cared for in several concrete ways. Staff development, for example, is important for meeting the needs of program participants, but it also gives home visitors the message that they are important to the program. You can provide coaching, training workshops, and other professional development opportunities; arrange for mental health consultation on a regular basis; and accompany home visitors on joint home visits. Reflective supervision is also an important mechanism for supporting home visitors.

The supervisor also celebrates the work of home-based staff. You might do this informally during daily verbal or email conversations or formally by acknowledging home visitors’ accomplishments in a staff meeting or on a bulletin board, or by giving out certificates that mark progress in a certain area. Provide opportunities for peer support so home visitors can share experiences with and care for one another. In addition, offering staff mental health activities (e.g., bringing in a massage therapist, exercise trainer, or meditation coach to work with staff members; offering talks on stress management; impromptu meals) demonstrate that you care about staff members’ development and functioning. Talk with program administrators and/or human resources staff about providing a program-wide employee assistance program.

“Nurturing the nurturer” is a particularly effective way to avoid burnout in home visiting staff members. However, even in the most nurturing environments, staff members can become disengaged from the work of the program. Notice if home visitors exhibit signs of stress or burnout, and work with them on how to address the issues with which they are struggling. Ensure access to a mental health professional.

Signs of burnout include:

  • Emotional exhaustion
  • Physical exhaustion
  • Feelings of being overextended or overwhelmed
  • Loss of caring for families and children
  • Decrease in level of accomplishment
  • Withdrawal from social and peer groups
  • Loss of hope and optimism
  • Feelings of cynicism and fatalism
  • Decreased sense of pleasure in work
  • Feelings of incompetence

Experience It

Nurturing Home Visitors

Amanda Perez, EHS NRC; Rosalba Bonilla-Acosta, Maryland program director, CentroNia; and Mary Ann Cornish, Higher Horizons, Falls Church, VA, and executive director, EHS, talk about self-care in EHS programs.

Reflection Questions:

  1. What does your program do to support home visitors in self-care?
  2. What do you do to take care of yourself?

Learn More

Home visiting is one of the most challenging and rewarding jobs there is. Home visitors work with families in their homes, nurture parent-child relationships, and offer families information, support, and connections to community resources. In this podcast, Early Head Start families share how home visiting has impacted them.

Many Head Start and Early Head Start teachers describe times when they struggle to remain positive, provide a nurturing environment, and comply with all the demands of their jobs. This article provides supportive strategies that may help caregivers deliver Head Start services in meaningful and enjoyable ways.

Discover the importance of self-care and professionalism for EHS staff. Mary Ann Cornish, executive director of Higher Horizons, and Rosalba Bonilla-Acosta, program director of CentroNia Maryland, present.