Professional Development Supports for Home Visitors and Supervisors: Strengthening the Home Visiting Workforce

Publication Date: February 4, 2021
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  • Pages: 34
  • Published: 2021

Introduction

Research Questions

  1. What opportunities exist for professional development for home visitors and home visiting supervisors?
  2. How do these opportunities vary at different career stages?
  3. What are the perceived gaps in available trainings?
  4. What challenges exist for professional development for home visitors and supervisors at various points in their careers?

A strong body of evidence shows the positive impacts of home visiting on children and their families, including improvements in maternal and child health, child development, and parenting practices. Early childhood home visiting programs rely on well-trained staff to deliver interventions, but little research is available on the educational background or preservice preparation home visitors typically bring to the job, or their experiences with ongoing professional development.

This short report examines issues related to professional development for home visitors and home visiting supervisors. The findings presented are based on a national study of the home visiting workforce in Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program-funded agencies and interviews with experts in higher education and in the home visiting field. The report also shares information from a scan of online resources related to training and professional development for home visiting program staff.

Purpose

Early childhood home visiting programs rely on well-trained staff to deliver interventions, but little research is available on the educational background or preservice preparation home visitors typically bring to the job, or their experiences with ongoing professional development.

This short report presents findings from a national descriptive study of the home visiting workforce in local agencies receiving MIECHV funding with a focus on the professional development opportunities and gaps that exist to support the early childhood home visiting workforce.  

Key Findings and Highlights

Analyses of data point to the following key findings:

  1. Home visitors and supervisors have varying educational and professional backgrounds, reflecting the range of home visiting models used and the staffing needs of local home visiting programs. This variation highlights a challenge in preparing people for home visiting as a profession.
  2. Observational assessments and core competency frameworks can be useful tools to measure home visitor performance and guide professional development goals.
  3. A widely used certification or endorsement for home visitors could help encourage standardization of the field, but this approach has benefits and drawbacks.
  4. A range of in-service training opportunities is available to home visitors, but cost and time can be constraints.
  5. Home visitors and supervisors identify topics where they need additional training on addressing sensitive situations such as domestic violence and substance use.

Methods

The project includes (1) a two-stage national survey of the home visiting workforce in local implementing agencies (LIAs) receiving funding from the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program; (2) case studies in eight states involving interviews with program leaders and supervisory staff, as well as focus groups with home visitors in 26 LIAs; (3) a literature review on professional development for home visiting and related fields; and (4) a select number of expert interviews on the topic of professional development in the early childhood home visiting field.

Findings for this brief draw primarily on the literature review and expert interviews, but also consider case study findings and results from the surveys.

Citation

Peters, Rebecca, Sarah Benatar, and Heather Sandstrom. 2021. Professional Development Supports for Home Visitors and Supervisors: Strengthening the Home Visiting Workforce. OPRE Report #2021-01, Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Glossary

Early childhood home visiting:
A service delivery strategy for achieving greater child and family health and well-being. Local home visiting programs connect new and expecting parents with a designated support person—a trained nurse, social worker, parent educator, or early childhood specialist—who provides services in the home. Services generally consist of screening, case management, family support or counseling, and caregiver skills training.
Local implementing agency (LIA):
A local organization, such as a community action agency, community nonprofit, or public health or education department, that receives funding to implement home visiting services under MIECHV. States, territories, and tribes work with LIAs to train a high-quality home visiting workforce, establish data reporting and financial accountability systems, and develop recruitment and referral networks.
Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program:
Administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration in partnership with the Administration for Children and Families, the MIECHV Program was established in 2010 to support voluntary, evidence-based home visiting for at-risk pregnant women and parents with children up to kindergarten entry. The program provides grants to states, US territories, and tribes, which conduct needs assessments to identify eligible at-risk communities and serve priority populations.