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, ongoing training and other professional development activities are key tobuilding 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 supervision, case management of participant families, and observations. The Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS) require a structured approach to staff training and development [45 CFR 1304.52(l)(2)]. A first step in the process is to assess staff skills and knowledge relative to the needs of the program. At a minimum, training must include (a) ongoing opportunities for staff members to acquire the knowledge and skills they need to carry out the HSPPS, (b) the appropriate methods for identifying and reporting child abuse and neglect, and (c) the skills to plan successful transitions to and from Early Head Start or Head Start programs [45 CFR 1304.52(l)(3)(i)-(ii)]. The 2007 Head Start Act section 645A(i)(2)(A)-(G) also sets “standards for training, qualifications, and the conduct of home visits [in Early Head Start].” (See the Home Visitor’s Handbook, Chapter 8, “Training and Education of Home Visitors,” for a full description of the competencies.)

  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).