The words “home visiting” probably conjure up images of a helpful professional or paraprofessional in the family’s home providing guidance to parents, while also sharing information on how they can obtain helpful social services. This is all true, but you may be surprised to learn that home visiting is also being used in new and different ways to reach young children, particularly those who are vulnerable, in their child care settings outside their homes while their parents go to work.
At the recent Oklahoma SmartStart Conference, we shared our work at CLASP in researching how home visiting programs can partner with “unlikely suspects” –small, home based child care providers, and family, friend and neighbor (FFN) caregivers – to benefit providers, the children they care for, and their families. Home based providers may be isolated and also lack skills and training that allow them to be as effective in their caregiving as they could be. A handful of programs throughout the country have experimented with this strategy, and shown that home visiting in child care settings can be quite helpful for all involved.
We learned from local experts attending the session that partnerships between home visiting programs and home based providers may be particularly useful with families receiving child care assistance in Oklahoma tribal areas, where license-exempt friend and family caregivers are legally allowed to care for children receiving assistance from the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) funds.
Whether or not providers are licensed, they may face isolation, lack of resources and the inability to take time off to attend regular trainings. Home visiting can not only provide children in their care with necessary supports and resources, but also help the child care providers gain knowledge, acquire resources and training and, in some instances, connect with other providers. Our session in Oklahoma helped those in attendance – and us – to think outside the box of how home visiting is administered in the state and also helped us to think about other settings where this approach of visiting care providers may really be useful. We look forward to continuing to explore how visiting with these “unlikely suspects” might be beneficial for many children, families and care providers across the country.
By Stephanie Schmit, CLASP