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.
In this short report, we provide a snapshot of the state of the professional development systems for home visiting in 2018, with an emphasis on professional development for home visitors who provide direct services to families. We describe the perspectives of home visitors and home visiting supervisors working in MIECHV-funded agencies and stakeholders with expertise in professional development as it pertains to the field of home visiting. We also describe the ways in which professional development could be improved to help strengthen the home visiting workforce.
In September 2021, we added an Authors’ Note and slight revisions to this short report to clarify the timing of data collection—which occurred primarily in 2018—and acknowledge that these findings represent a snapshot in time. The field has since evolved, but many considerations discussed in this report remain relevant. We also took the opportunity to provide additional clarity regarding some of the findings and their implications.
Primary Research Questions
- What opportunities exist for professional development for home visitors and home visiting supervisors?
- How do these opportunities vary at different career stages?
- What are the perceived gaps in available trainings?
- What challenges exist for professional development for home visitors and supervisors at various points in their careers?
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:
- 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.
- Observational assessments and core competency frameworks can be useful tools to measure home visitor performance and guide professional development goals.
- A widely used certification or endorsement for home visitors could help encourage standardization of the field, but this approach has benefits and drawbacks.
- A range of in-service training opportunities is available to home visitors, but cost and time can be constraints.
- Home visitors and supervisors identify topics where they need additional training on addressing sensitive situations such as domestic violence and substance use.
The findings presented in this report are based primarily on qualitative data collected through key informant stakeholder interviews with individuals who have expertise in the early childhood home visiting workforce conducted in late 2017 through early 2019, focus groups with home visitors and interviews with program managers at MIECHV-funded local implementing agencies (LIAs) in eight states conducted in 2018, and a literature scan conducted in 2017 through 2018. Findings from a national survey of the home visiting workforce conducted in September through December 2018 as part of the larger project are also referenced in the report. Findings for this brief draw primarily on the literature review and expert interviews, but also consider case study findings and results from the surveys.