Early Head Start Home Visitor Shares a Success Story
When asked to do “virtual” home visits, I was admittedly anxious! I did not have a clear picture of how that was going to work out. But after my first virtual home visit, I completely relaxed and thought, “This can be successful!”
I have been busy connecting families with necessary resources. I provided them with contact information for energy and food assistance. The families I work with have been appreciative of the links to resources provided to them. As a team, my coworkers and I are currently working on finding resources for diapers and wipes, as our families are unemployed for a longer period.
Once the discussion of basic needs moved into the background (at least for a moment), I started to think more about continuing the strong educational and school readiness component of our program. I have provided families with links to educational experiences (read-alouds, free online preschool, virtual field trips, etc.). I made a video of myself reading a book and sent it to families through email. Parents have shared that their child smiled when they saw me on their screen. This tells me that it is comforting and enjoyable for children to see a familiar face, and for them to have a piece of their routine (sharing a book with me) in place, even if it isn’t in person.
I share activities using Teaching Strategies Mighty Minutes or the Parents as Teachers curriculum. Today, during a virtual home visit, I showed a family how to make a “grocery store” activity. I shared the learning objectives of the activity and engaged the parent by asking her to share her observations of her child while doing the activity, during either that visit or the next one.
Taking the continuation of the visiting routine to the next step, I set up a staged home visiting space in my home to appeal to the children. It helps me to have items on hand for engaging children (metal lids and shakers for music making and bubbles). I realize setting something up in the home will not be practical for everyone, but there are many things that are easy to duplicate to have some continuity. For example, during my virtual home visits, I always read a book to the child and sing a familiar song. I choose activities through Teaching Strategies Mighty Minutes as my way of engaging with the child and modeling an activity for the parent.
During this time, the presence of siblings in the home has been a big factor. I thought about ways I could include interested siblings and model this for the families, and how beneficial this could be. I wondered how the school-age siblings were feeling during this national crisis. I contacted a family this week using Google Duo. They could not hold the visit at that time, because they were on their way to the “food bus!” (PS, age 5). When they returned home from the Department of Education food assistance program, they contacted me for the visit. PS was very excited and showed me the food they received from the “food bus!” She is happy and was obviously not worried at all, at least in that moment, about the “crisis.” It is a real positive that the parents seem to be maintaining an atmosphere at home to minimize stress in the family. (This is all that matters!)
I am looking forward to hearing of the successes of others who are staying connected with children and families throughout this challenging time.
Lori A. Keller
Family Support Specialist
UD New Directions Early Head Start