9 Supervisory Challenges

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Supervising home visitors in Early Head Start (EHS) and Head Start (HS) requires knowledge and skills in many areas, some very specific. Supervisors should know how to support a family and their home visitor through a crisis, deal with a challenging home visitor, and manage relationships that are often messy, emotionally laden, unintentionally hurtful, and sometimes in need of repair. Supervisors also must to maintain professional boundaries within reflective supervision (RS) and within the home visiting relationships. Additional challenges include scheduling and protecting time, and balancing administrative and reflective supervision.


Despite the challenges of poverty, many families that participate in EHS and HS lead relatively stable lives with supportive extended families, networks of friends and neighbors, and faith- based communities. With the additional support of the program’s comprehensive services, families capably move themselves forward and meet their children’s needs. However, home visitors throughout the country also encounter significant crises on a regular basis.

When the Home Visitor Is the Challenge

Most home visitors are a highly motivated and dedicated group of professionals. However, some do miss visits but report having made them. Some cannot or do not conduct the visits according to the program’s philosophy and protocol. Some are not able to keep up with the wealth of paperwork and documentation required. Others do not cooperate within the supervisory relationship. These represent supervisory challenges.

Relationship Ruptures

Home visiting is thick with relationships. Sometime relationships go awry. Recognizing ruptures in relationships and having the skills for repair are important for home visitor supervisors.

Professional Boundaries

Professional boundaries have been described as limits that protect the space between the professional's power and the family's vulnerability. These boundaries are challenged when the supervisor and home visitor or the home visitor and family become friends, share social occasions, or abuse the power difference in the relationship.

Scheduling and Protecting Time

Consistency is an important element of reflective supervision. However, given the competing demands on both the supervisors and the home visitors, scheduling can be a serious challenge.

Balancing Administrative and Reflective Supervision

It is not unusual for one person to be both the administrative supervisor and the reflective supervisor in smaller programs. Because these roles have very different responsibilities and create different relationships, maintaining both can be a challenge.