Home Visitors Discuss Service Changes as Stay-at-Home Rules Ease Up

By Cinthia Diaz

Program Assistant, First 5 Center for Children's Policy

As states begin easing stay-at-home orders and lifting restrictions on businesses and public spaces, home visitors, who have shifted to virtual visits during the pandemic, are thinking through how this will impact the field and their ongoing connections with families.

On Wednesday, the Rapid Response-Virtual Home Visiting Collaborative brought together representatives from several models, including representatives from the prominent California home visiting programs Healthy Families America, Nurse Family Partnership, Parents as Teachers, and Early Head Start, for a Q&A session. They discussed common questions regarding virtual service delivery, model fidelity, and resources and support.

During the webinar the models united around two main messages:

  • Maintenance of virtual home visits is essential to keeping staff and families safe
  • Programs can be flexible and follow the families’ lead on how and when to engage

“We are supporting the maintenance of virtual home visits and access to virtual home visits for children and families because we do believe that there is still a great risk to both the workforce and the families that we serve,” said Jeanna Capito, facilitator of the National Alliance of Home Visiting Models.

Resuming in-person visits during the pandemic would present a set of new challenges for home visitors. Maintaining social distancing and practicing recommended hygiene techniques is hard to do when working face-to-face with families, in back-to-back visits, with small children who do not quite understand these concepts yet. Covering one’s face and wearing gloves can also scare children and make it harder for home visitors to connect with families given the inability to observe facial expressions. In addition, purchasing personal protective equipment can strain program funds.

Model representatives reminded home visitors of the importance of keeping up do date with, and reaching out to, their model developers and national service offices for guidance and answers to program-related questions, especially those around model fidelity. However, they encouraged flexibility, especially around enrollment and recruitment where possible.

The webinar allowed home visitors to share resources that support virtual connections to families. The Rapid Response-Virtual Home Visiting collaborative website has numerous resources that can be helpful for home visitors offering services through telehealth, including a Model Guidance in Response to COVID-19 document that consolidates information from members of the National Alliance of Home Visiting Models.

“Home Visiting has not been closed,” noted Capito. “It has continued to serve families consistently through the pandemic and be available to families in this time of need.”

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