What is Home Visitation?

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What does in-home mentoring look like?
"My two year old had just started to walk and wasn't talking yet and he would get frustrated and have tantrums. She (my home visitor) had lots of experience with toddlers. She showed me how to wrap him up in a blanket so he wouldn't injure himself or me. She got to know me and my son. One time she said, "Well, try copying what he's doing, it will make him laugh." And during the week I tried that on my own and it worked!"

Home visitation is a voluntary free-of-charge program for Alberta families with children from newborn to six years of age. Priority is given to children in the 0-3 years age range. Home visitors stop by weekly in the parents' home to enhance parenting skills, provide information on child development, child health and other aspects of positive family functioning.

Home visitors build relationships with families with the aim of helping them perceive and build on their own strengths. They spur families on to greater success through on-going support and by connecting them with community agencies that can provide additional assistance.

Participation in the program can be intensive and long-term depending on the needs of the children and family. Weekly visits may gradually be reduced to monthly. Families may take part in the program for up to 6 years, depending on individual needs.

Families are referred to the program by a public health nurse, social worker or through self-referral. The screening and assessment process is completed by public health nurses, family assessment workers or family support workers.

Home Visitation is the cornerstone of programs such as Healthy Families America, Healthy Start, Great Kids Inc., Parents as Teachers, Teaching Family Model and First Step projects and a key component of several others including Head Start, Early Head Start and Early Intervention for Children with Developmental Delays.

Goals of the Home Visitation Programs funded by Alberta Children's Services:

  • promote positive parent-child relationships
  • improve parenting knowledge and skills
  • foster healthy child development
  • help families access the network of formal and informal services and supports available in their own communities

How do you connect parents with the community?
"I have a baby and two other children. One thing my home visitor did was to tell me about an agency in the city who had volunteers who would come to my house and just watch the kids for three hours so I could have a shower or just take a break or get some other things done. I never would have known about that program."

Why is it home-based?
"Transportation is a big concern. Some of the mothers I see live on farms and don't have vehicles during the day. The expense and effort involved in going to a centre-based program would be too much for them."

"I would not feel as open if I needed to see my home visitor in an office somewhere. I have other professionals working with my son in my home. She is there with me for those times and she makes me feel like my input is important."