5 Professional Development for Home Visitors


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Once you have selected home visitors with the greatest potential, how do you prepare them to do the work? What if your community does not have a cadre of job applicants with the training and skills you seek? When the “newness” of the job has worn off, how do you inspire your home visitors to learn new skills or refresh the ones they brought with them? How do you build individual and program excellence?

Staffing issues such as these are directly related to your approach to professional development. The Advisory Committee on Services for Families with Infants and Toddlers found that “programs are only as good as the individuals who staff them.”1 Once you have recruited and hired home visitors, provide a thorough orientation to the work and the program, Then, ongoing training and other professional development activities are key to building individual and program competence.

The way you develop and strengthen home visitors’ knowledge and skills can occur through formal learning experiences such as classes, workshops, and credentials, as well as through coaching, supervision, case management of participant families, and observations. (See the Home Visitor’s Handbook, Chapter 8, “Training and Education of Home Visitors,” for a full description of the competencies.)

The Head Start Program Performance Standards (§1302.92 Training and professional development.) require:

(a) A program must provide to all new staff, consultants, and volunteers an orientation that focuses on, at a minimum, the goals and underlying philosophy of the program and on the ways they are implemented.

(b) A program must establish and implement a systematic approach to staff training and professional development designed to assist staff in acquiring or increasing the knowledge and skills needed to provide high-quality, comprehensive services within the scope of their job responsibilities, and attached to academic credit as appropriate. At a minimum, the system must include:

(1) Staff completing a minimum of 15 clock hours of professional development per year. For teaching staff, such professional development must meet the requirements described in section 648A(a)(5) of the Act.

(2) Training on methods to handle suspected or known child abuse and neglect cases, that comply with applicable federal, state, local, and tribal laws;

(3) Training for child and family services staff on best practices for implementing family engagement strategies in a systemic way, as described throughout this part;

(4) Training for child and family services staff, including staff that work on family services, health, and disabilities, that builds their knowledge, experience, and competencies to improve child and family outcomes; and,

(5) Research-based approaches to professional development for education staff, that are focused on effective curricula implementation, knowledge of the content in Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework: Ages Birth to Five, partnering with families, supporting children with disabilities and their families, providing effective and nurturing adult-child interactions, supporting dual language learners as appropriate, addressing challenging behaviors, preparing children and families for transitions (as described in subpart G of this part), and use of data to individualize learning experiences to improve outcomes for all children.

(c) A program must implement a research-based, coordinated coaching strategy for education staff that:

(1) Assesses all education staff to identify strengths, areas of needed support, and which staff would benefit most from intensive coaching.

(2) At a minimum, provides opportunities for intensive coaching to identified education staff including opportunities to be observed and receive feedback and modeling of effective teacher practices directly related to program performance goals.

(3) At a minimum, provides opportunities for education staff not identified for intensive coaching to receive other forms of research-based professional development aligned with program performance goals.

(4) Ensures intensive coaching opportunities for identified staff that:

(i) Align with the program’s school readiness goals, curricula, and other approaches to professional development

(ii) Utilize a coach with adequate training and experience in adult learning and in using assessment data to drive coaching strategies aligned with program performance goals

(iii) Provide ongoing communication between the coach, program director, education director, and any other relevant staff

(iv) Include clearly articulated goals informed by the program’s goals, as described in §1302.102, and a process for achieving those goals.

(5) Establishes policies that ensure assessment results are not used to solely determine punitive actions for staff identified as needing support, without providing time and resources for staff to improve.


  1. Advisory Committee on Services for Families for Infants and Toddlers, The Statement of the Advisory Committee on Services for Families of Infants and Toddlers: Program Cornerstones (Washington, DC: Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children, Youth and Families, 1994).