can be difficult for them to help the home visitor reflect on and learn from their experiences. Despite these difficulties, home visitors need supervision that goes beyond “did you do your job or not” to include elements of social and emotional support, teamwork, and recognition of staff effort. Terry Carrilio, of the Policy Institute at the San Diego State University School of Social Work, aptly observed that the “process needs to reflect what you are trying to do. If a program does not treat its staffwell, how can we expect the staff to deliver a supportive service? ”
Cultural and linguistic considerations are also involved in the decision of who can best deliver home visiting services, but they encompass many other complex issues as well. Home visiting programs deal with fundamental beliefs about how a parent interacts with a child. These beliefs, which are heavily imbued with cultural meaning, provide the foundation for the design and implementation of any program. As noted by Baca, for example, it is likely to be more difficult for a home visitor from a culture different from that of the family to distinguish between practices and beliefs that are culturally different and those that are culturally dysfunctional. This applies as well to evaluators. Linda Espinosa, of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Missouri, cautioned that there are possible ripple effects when “we start changing highly personal, highly culturally embedded ways of interacting and socializing children within the family unit. We hope the effects are positive, but we cannot ignore the possibility that they could be negative.” In this context, Espinosa specifically mentioned the potential for programs to upset “the fragile balance of power within the family.”
Decisions about using bicultural and bilingual home visitors are often determined by forces beyond the control of the program. For example, the Family Focus for School Success program in Redwood City, California, chose to hire paraprofessionals because, as Espinosa described, “there were no certificated or B.A.-level people who were bilingual and bicultural and who were floating around in the community waiting to be hired.” Program developers made the decision that having bilingual and bicultural staff was more important than having professional staff. This issue creates certain challenges when programs are expanded since it may not be possible to find enough people willing to be home visitors with the necessary qualifications. The basic question, as for all interventions, is: “Do our goals and outcomes align with the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of the families we serve?”
Three conditions that can significantly impede the capacity of a home visiting program to benefit families were identified and discussed at the workshop: domestic violence, maternal depression, and substance abuse. Home visiting programs generally set goals that are preventive in nature: to prevent child abuse and neglect, to improve the nutrition and health practices of the mother, to reduce the number of babies born with low birthweight, and to promote school readiness and prevent school failure. However, the families that are targeted by home visiting programs often experience other problems, such as maternal depression, substance abuse, and domestic violence, that need to be addressed before the prevention goals of the program can be achieved.