Day in the Life of an Early Head Start Home VisitorPosted December 18, 2018
Heather Smith- Hoosick Falls Family Resource Center
Heather Smith arrives at the Hoosick Falls Family Resource Center (HFFRC) and settles in for the day. She begins by checking her email, and touching base with Jocelyn Ryan, the Center Manager. Although the primary responsibilities of Heather’s position are centered on bringing Early Head Start programming to children at home, she also helps out at the HFFRC. If the center is short-staffed, Heather can also help cover the absences. Today, there’s good coverage, so Heather prepares to head out to her first appointment.
Heather heads out for her first home visit of the day. She generally schedules home visits starting at 9am on weekdays. She has eight children she serves across the northeastern section of Rensselaer County (including Hoosick Falls, Berlin, and the surrounding areas). While the Babies in Waiting program pairs CEO staff with expectant mothers who visit them up to the infant’s sixth week, the home based program takes over after that. So Heather, and the other Home Visitor, see children six weeks old to three years old.
After a short drive on Route 67, Heather arrives at her first home of the day. She tries to make a visit to each of the eight families once a week. The appointments last an hour and a half, so she’s typically able to fit in two a day. She follows a set curriculum, and each child has a binder that she refers to as they complete one milestone after another.
The mother and Heather take a few minutes to chat once she knocks and enters the home. Heather greets the child, and asks the mom how things are going. They talk about what’s been going on since her last visit. After a brief chat, they get to work on an activity. This week, they’re making turkey handprints. Heather works with the toddler to paint her hand, and stamp it on to paper. There are many fine motor skills at work, and Heather talks about the developmental milestones and skills involved with each activity with the mother while they go through the activity. She also discusses some baby sign language that the family could work on.
Snack time! Heather always tries to bring a snack with her. Sometimes it’s fresh fruit, or crackers and cheese. She works with the kitchen at the HFFRC to bring something age appropriate for each visit. While the toddler snacks, she talks again with the mom about the next socialization she has scheduled for this month to see if they need transportation to or from. Heather schedules two group socializations every month for the home-based families. In warmer months she might host them at a park. In the cooler months, they typically happen at the HFFRC or the library in Hoosick. These socializations allow the families to come together and have time for the children to socialize over a fun activity.
Transportation needs is another area where Heather helps out the families on her caseload. She drives them to and from the socializations if needed, or to developmental screenings and doctor appointments.
After scheduling the next home visit, Heather picks up and says goodbye to the family.
Back in the car, Heather notes that the Home Based program, “is a good intro to the center and makes families comfortable prior to sending a child to a center-based Early Head Start or Head Start program.”
It’s just a short drive to the next home visit Heather has, so she takes a minute to get organized before heading out.
Back in Hoosick Falls, Heather meets with the family of the youngest child on her case load. The mother and her four-month-old greet her at the door, and Heather takes a few minutes to chat about their week with the mom. Mom talks about a problem she’s been having with the baby; he wasn’t burping, so Heather gives her some tips on getting that air pocket to move.
Once she’s settled in, Heather sets the little boy up for some tummy time, helping him work to reach things on the mat. Heather has a big family, 7 kids ranging in age from seven to 16. Her youngest was a Head Start student at HFFRC. She started as a substitute not long after that, and enjoyed it so much she got her CDA. A position opened up in HFFRC as a home based visitor, and Heather jumped at the chance. She has a great ease around the children and families.
After tummy-time, Heather reads the little boy a touch and feel book, and then touches base with the mother about the next visit and any other service needs she may have.
The families also look to the Home Visitor to help connect them to the same services that families in the centers receive through their Family Advocates. Whether it’s referrals for other CEO services, or help with securing SNAP benefits, HEAP, or public service applications, the Home Visitors are there to help.
Heather says goodbye to the family and heads back to the HFFRC for a lunch break.
Heather touches base with Jocelyn to see if she’s needed to help during lunchtime before heading back to her office to tackle a few emails and log her visit in the database for the day. For each home visit, Heather must log the time, length of the visit, school readiness goals, family engagement, and observations on the child.
One of the toddler teachers had to leave early, so Heather helps cover in the classroom. The toddlers are waking up from their nap, so Heather helps with getting snack ready and the kids fed. Today they’re having crackers & cheese. After snack, Heather helps get the children started on an activity. Parents start picking up their children around 2:30, so the last hour is busy for Heather and the other teacher.
With all the children gone, Heather heads back to her office to wrap up a few emails and get ready for tomorrow.
What is your favorite thing about what you do?
“I love being able to help the families! I love that as a home visitor I bring services to the kids and families that other families get in the center. For example, I help them with coats and backpacks, sometimes I bring them Thanksgiving Dinners during the holidays. Back in September, we had a safe sleep socialization program, and I was able to give free pack-n’-plays for the families. Those connections are so important. It’s work, but it’s not work!”
Why should someone consider working for CEO’s Early Childhood Services program?
“You see these kids every day- you see them grow and reach new milestones, and it’s really rewarding.”