In this peri-Covid period, it would be fair to ask, “How can we go beyond recruitment and retention given the shortage of home visitors right now?” After all, supervisors in community-based programs have never worked so hard to find and onboard new home visitors who are racially, culturally, and linguistically representative of families served while also trying to retain the ones who remain. For those of us connected to home visiting who are not supervisors, it is time to examine the systemic conditions that fuel pervasive vacancy and turnover, and to consider changes that could make a real difference both now and in the future for local programs.
Supervisors Know What’s Wrong With the Home Visiting Sector at the ‘Front Door’:
Interested candidates don’t meet educational job requirements set at the systems level. Are we turning away candidates with racial, language and community experience in common with the families served because they didn’t have an opportunity to pursue a degree? Perhaps we could make progress in achieving greater cultural alignment in the workforce with the families in home visiting, if we re-weighted personal attributes, life experience, and competencies as ‘proxies’ for job requirements based on economic opportunity.
Salaries are not competitive nor commensurate with the nature of the work. Let’s face it, there are many jobs that require less training, breadth of expertise, and emotional resiliency that pay the same or more. To retain this critical workforce, we need to advocate for higher salaries that match the expertise that home visitors bring to their work with families, nurture existing job benefits (e.g., partnership and support of peers; ongoing on-the-job professional development), and support opportunities for advancement.
Supervisors Also Know What’s Wrong with the Home Visiting Sector at the ‘Back Door’:
Job expectations keep expanding. Constantly expanding and/or changing expectations for breadth of expertise to keep the job they have, and at the same salary, is experienced by some home visitors as an invitation to leave their work with families.
Lack of opportunities for advancement. There is a need for better defined career ladders driven by the goals and aspirations of the workforce. This isn’t new, but we seem stuck in thinking about this as a challenge at the community, program, or agency level and not more broadly at a systems level.
Perhaps we need to expand our thinking about how to expose practitioners to other sectors of the home visiting field: research, training, administration, CQI, policy, etc. Gains could be made especially with a focus on BIPOC practitioners whose perspectives in these leadership and decision-making sectors are largely missing and yet, who are uniquely qualified to represent the perspectives of the minority families served in home visiting.
For those who have found a sense of calling in direct service with families, we have an obligation to improve the conditions that support them to stay doing what they feel called to do. At a systems level, ensuring equal access to high quality professional development that reflects the lived experience in the language of practitioners is a critical component. For those who want their experience with families to be a foundation for something next, we have an obligation to support their exploration of where in the field of home visiting they could be.
Home visitors often don’t have a seat at the table. Too often decisions are made that directly impact the work that home visitors do – without their feedback involved in the process. Engaging and authentically incorporating practitioner voice from the very beginning in decision-making processes brings critical expertise to the table.
Our Challenge to the Field:
We invite you to engage in further exploration of these issues with us and others from across the home visiting field at the upcoming virtual National Home Visiting Summit in March, 2023. The National Home Visiting Summit is a great opportunity to become personally and professionally inspired to explore who is involved and what is happening across the field of home visiting. The Summit emphasizes the importance of attracting, retaining, and advancing BIPOC representation and voice in all sectors of the field. It’s an opportunity to ask yourself what else you could do to open the ‘front door’ to a racially, culturally, and linguistically diverse, next generation of home visitors and to inspire today’s practitioners to find the place where they can make a valued contribution to the field.