Organizational Leadership

Administrative Supervision

Two women going over notes.As a supervisor of home visitors, you have many administrative responsibilities. You must ensure that:

  • All visits are completed as scheduled
  • Documentation is completed accurately and in a timely manner
  • The program’s approach to working with children and their families is carried out
  • Home visitors receive the training and support they need to perform well
  • You observe home visits and socializations

Each of these tasks can be complex and time consuming, even when things are going well. Administrative responsibilities can be challenging when policies and procedures are not implemented as designed and program efforts do not meet compliance. It is important to work with home visitors as these supervisory challenges occur and identify solutions that support the home visitor and the families in the program.

Challenging issues that can arise include:

  • Incomplete or incorrect documentation of home visits
  • Refusal to follow the program’s approach and protocol
  • Lack of cooperation and communication between home visitors and supervisors

Incomplete or Incorrect Documentation of Home Visits

Almost everyone working in Head Start programs is challenged by paperwork. Head Start is a publicly funded program with high standards for accountability. Thus the saying, “If it isn’t written down, it didn’t happen.” Complete and correct records of home visits, socializations, and other home visiting activities are essential to ensure compliance with applicable Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS). They are also used for planning, evaluation, and continuous quality improvement. Incomplete and incorrect records can pose unique challenges for supervisors to hold staff accountable for their work with families. Supervisors should handle this type of issue according to program policies and procedures.

You can help home visitors manage documentation by:

  • Ensuring that the home visitor understands the purpose of each assessment, note, and form
  • Creating systems that prevent duplication of effort. Have internal teams review forms and processes periodically to ensure that any one effort may serve several purposes.
  • When a home visitor may be struggling with time management, consider:
    • Is documentation a scheduling issue?
    • Can the notes be simplified?
    • Is it possible to use technology for note taking and recording documentation during and after home visits?
    • Is there adequate office time each week to review notes and forms and prepare for the next set of visits and socializations?
    • Are there clear and consistent expectations related to documentation?

Refusal to Follow the Program’s Approach and Protocol

Home visiting has developed over the years, often through models that have required strict replication of their procedures. If a home visitor comes to your program trained in one of these models, it may be difficult to shift practices. For example, many home visiting models included bringing toys and materials into the home to support certain learning goals during the visit. In a major shift, home-based programs, including Early Head Start and Head Start, realized that it is better to use materials found in the home for learning experiences. Using the home’s materials, experiences, and routines helps the family understand the many learning opportunities available every day.

You can help home visitors use your program’s approach with fidelity if you:

  • Provide training on every aspect of the curriculum, assessments, and philosophy — not just the “what” and “how” but also the “why”
  • Discuss their work in enough detail to ensure they understand your approach and how it works
  • Observe home visitors during visits and socializations or ask them to video themselves and watch the video with them
  • Provide coaching (see the Coaching section, Professional Development for Home Visitors, of this handbook)
  • Role-play home visits and socializations individually or in groups, having each home visitor demonstrate an important aspect of your approach such as:
    • Using materials found in the home for a specific learning goal
    • Supporting the parent in interacting with the child, being the “guide by the side”
    • Choosing words to identify learning as the home visitor observes it in an infant or toddler

Lack of Cooperation and Communication

Relationships between supervisors and home visitors can flounder for many reasons and affect their cooperation and communication. Signs of possible difficulty include the supervisor doing most of the talking, frequently cancelling scheduled meetings with staff, and not taking charge when it would be helpful. Supervisors should also be alert if a home visitor frequently cancels meetings with the supervisor, remains quiet for most of the meeting, rushes through the meeting, shares only the facts, or argues against any suggestions.

Here are some questions you might explore:

  • What does the home visitor like about the work? Dislike about the work?
  • How does the home visitor evaluate the program’s approach?
  • Is the work what the home visitor expected it to be? Has it changed?
  • Are there particular challenges?
  • Are there cultural differences between you and the home visitor or families and the home visitor?
  • Has the home visitor had limited experience with reflective thinking or mentoring?
  • Does the home visitor feel you lack faith in his or her abilities?

As with any relationship, the home visitor–supervisor relationship will have ups and downs and occasionally be challenging. It is important that you, as a supervisor, receive supportive supervision. Reflective practices, such as self-reflection and reflective supervision, can support individual professional growth and relationship-building skills. You can learn more about these skills in the next section.

Performance Reviews

As part of an annual cycle of professional development, many programs formally review the quality and efficacy of the home visitors’ work. The results of these reviews are used to identify staff training and professional development needs, modify staff performance agreements, and assist each staff member in improving his or her professional skills and competencies. The needs identified can help determine future plans and decisions about staff professional development.

Areas of focus include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Home visitors' relationships with families
  • Ability to meet the HSPPS requirements
  • Learning activities based on the Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework, the research-based early childhood home-based curriculum, and family and home visitor observations
  • The child’s progress toward school readiness goals
  • Comfort and familiarity with the home visiting process
  • Skills in engaging with and supporting families
  • Integration of child development principles and experiences into the home visits
  • Socializations, including engaging parents/families in planning
  • Ability to appropriately balance the needs of very young children and their parents/family members during a home visit
  • Adherence to program policies, procedures, and protocols, including record keeping

Each performance evaluation is an opportunity to assess staff training needs and long-term professional development goals. Planned observations during home visits and socializations can help you reflect on home visitor strengths and areas for improvement. Performance evaluations are also an opportunity to do joint problem solving for challenging situations in the family and to develop strategies for helping families reach their goals. There should be no surprises for home visitors during the evaluation, as information should be discussed during ongoing supervision.