Post by Jennifer Baxter
Team Supervisor for Healthy Families
I’ve been with Healthy Families for a little over seven years now. Along the journey, I’ve been in nearly a thousand homes and have supervised both assessment workers and long-term home visitors. I’ve spent countless hours documenting visits, reading visits, running reports and compiling statistics
(I happen to love statistics, so don’t feel bad for me).
From this experience, there are some things I’ve learned and am eager to share with anyone who will listen.
1. The deeper you are in the trenches, the harder it is
to see the battle.
Our home visitors are deep in the trenches: planning activities, promoting parent-child interaction, assessing and addressing risk factors, writing referrals to community resources, teaching child development, administering scales and tools, and documenting. Oh, the documenting! They have a lot of work to do and a lot is riding on their being effective. A worker can easily get bogged down or overwhelmed with all the things they must juggle. It’s my task to help them see the big picture and understand why we do what we do. To acknowledge their efforts and point out success, just as the home visitor does for the family, which brings me to my next point.
2. Everything is Parallel Process.
This is my absolute favorite idea in supervision. Parallel process is the idea that I should provide for my staff what I want them to provide parents, who will in turn provide for their child. We want our home visitors to provide a trusting, collaborative environment that is free from judgment. Instead of posing as experts and telling them what to do, we want our workers to help inform families so that they can make good decisions about what is best for their family. We want them to point out strengths and give praise and encouragement profusely. To be present with them. To give options. To be a safe place to cry. To advocate. So it begins with me and assuring that I am modeling the very behaviors I want to see in my staff. It’s an awesome responsibility, but nobody said supervising/home visiting/parenting was easy.
3. We plant the seed.
Both BIBs and Healthy Families can boast of innumerable success stories. From assisting with jobs and GEDs to making sure a family didn’t go hungry for the night. We have helped identify developmental delays and taught stressed families how to calm their babies. We have helped to provide safe sleeping spaces for babies and helped homeless families find shelter. These strengths become a foundation that families can build future success on. But even in the most difficult families, the ones that the visitor doesn’t feel the impact she is making, we are still planting a seed. We are instilling the idea that families have options and they have the power to make change, to do something different if they choose. To trust someone for the first time. To parent effectively despite their own childhood or life stressors. We are making a difference in our community and in the world, and the effects are seen in school readiness, lower incidences in child abuse and neglect, lower crime rate, and increased access to health care and community resources.
It really is a great honor to be invited into people’s homes, and one we don’t take lightly. We witness the joys and tears, the success and frustration and leave each home with the knowledge that we have made a positive impact. It’s a pretty big deal, and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.