Home Visiting: It’s All About Being Responsive

Being responsive to the needs of the families and the community is the core value in home visiting. Referencing the relationship between home visitor and family, Katy Murphy of the Department of Health Services (DHS) describes that “the whole job is being responsive.” Katy is the home visiting nurse consultant on the Department of Children and Families’ (DCF) and DHS’ three-person home visiting team, which also includes Leslie McAllister and Tom Hinds. Because home visitors go to a family’s home, they are uniquely positioned to be able to draw upon the environment and the context in which the family lives and works, making it easier to meet each family where they are at. Leslie describes how this process works: “Families and home visitors get to know each other, and, over time, build a trusting relationship based on mutual respect. Doing the work in a “one size fits all” fashion simply won’t be effective. We must be responsive to families in order to get positive results.”

The home visiting team at DCF plays a significant role in professional development by ensuring that trainings are relevant to the needs of home visitors, their supervisors, the organizations they work for, and the families they serve. The home visiting team believes it is the responsibility of those supporting professional development to continue to improve and modify training content based on well-assessed needs. To do this, the team advocates for the use of a debriefing form that calls for trainers to reflect upon their own practice and the practice of co-trainers, as applicable. The team- along with the help of their professional development partners – are also developing a methodology to determine effectiveness of training for home visitors based on their and their supervisors’ reports of practice change or improvement related to training and coaching received.

A major benefit of the home visiting work being done at the state level is the coordination of and accessibility to data in real-time. This is made possible by the database housed at DHS, which collects standardized data from programs across the state. The home visiting programs have varying levels of experience using the database; therefore, the home visiting team and the database administrator are providing training and technical assistance to the programs as they learn the system. Through collection of data, the home visiting team will be able to cater to the needs of each program and make data-driven decisions. Similarly, local home visiting programs can pull accurate, timely data to make informed decision for their own services. Much of Tom’s data work to-date has been in conjunction with the database work group to prepare to report to the project’s funders. Tom explained that “the State’s home visiting project must use many of the data for required federal reporting” and he is “excited to get beyond the report and look at the data together with programs to think about how we can make the programs even stronger”. With a coordinated system of data collection, home visiting programs can draw meaningful conclusions from data pulls and implement new strategies that are responsive to the needs of the families and communities they serve.

Home visiting aims to support families in experiencing better outcomes. Effective home visiting empowers families and supports them as decision makers. The team that Leslie, Katy and Tom make up aims to strengthen a statewide system of home visiting. An effective and seamless system elevates home visiting and as Katy describes, “Elevating home visiting means elevating parents”. And when parents and families are held closely in mind, they are empowered to create the best possible outcomes for their children.

Learn more about this and other important early childhood practices on the SFTA website.