Vilma M. Williams: Bringing Home the Value of Home Visiting Programs

March 26, 2020

Published by CounciLINK on March 26, 2020


VilmaHome visiting has grown in recent decades, and Vilma M. Williams has been there to support it. As Senior Manager of Multilingual and Special Programs at the Council for Professional Recognition, she’s worked with home visiting programs since 1986, and she’s committed to serving educators who are earning their Home Visitor Child Development Associate® (CDA) credential.

These early childhood professionals show parents how to help their children develop, as well as connect them to community resources that meet children’s health and learning needs. And they make an impact, as many research studies show. “Well-executed, evidence-based home visiting programs strengthen the bonds between parents and their young children,” Williams says, “enhance parenting skills, reduce abuse and neglect, prepare children for school and improve the health of both parents and children.”

These benefits matter to families, and they matter to Williams, too. “Home visiting is a field that is dear to my heart,” she says, “because it gives more children the chance to develop and succeed.”

Many children across the country aren’t getting the early care and education they need to reach their potential, she explains. Some of them live in remote places where there are no center-based programs or family child care homes. Others face a program’s long waiting list, and often parents can’t afford to pay for the services that their children need.

Home visiting programs make a difference for children like this, as Williams points out. They are available and offer a unique way to put young children on the path of success by educating their parents or other adults who play an important role in their lives. “So, the Council fully supports the field of home visiting and its programs by defining, evaluating and recognizing the competence of home visitors to help children and families reach their potential.”

Home visiting programs also assist parents at a vulnerable time in their lives, while still showing the parents respect as the ones who know their children best. “We know that parents are their child’s first teacher,” Williams says, “and home visiting empowers parents to be the best they can be. Many times, home visitors act as a last safety net for families who may not have anyone else to turn to.”

Home visitors, like all early childhood educators, benefit from earning a CDA, but the focus of the Home Visitor CDA is different. “Unlike other educators, home visitors are assessed for the competence they demonstrate in educating adults,” Williams explains. “To get a Home Visitor CDA, the teacher must show they can provide education and guidance to help adults prepare to work with their children, set their own goals, then reach them. And those who earn the credential carry out several key objectives:

  • Enabling parents to develop the skills and confidence they need to carry out their parenting responsibilities
  • Respecting the unique role of parents as their children’s first teachers
  • Recognizing the importance of inclusion for all families, including families who have children with special needs and families in diverse communities
  • Acknowledging the major role culture plays in early development
  • Professionalizing the field of home visiting education
  • Recognizing the competence and skills of home visitors who earn their CDA credential
  • Enabling home visitors to connect families to services and supports that will improve a child’s health, development and ability to learn

As they fulfill these wide-ranging goals, home visitors wear many hats, Williams says. “They don’t just teach the parents skills to work with their children. They also teach them skills for the whole family to develop and grow: from how to get a library card to promote their children’s reading skills to how to get health care for their children and how to navigate the welfare system so they can get the basic resources they require.”

Home visitors also provide guidance that puts parents’ minds at ease, Williams explains. “For example, bringing a baby home — any home — can be daunting, and the stress of becoming a first-time parent can be overwhelming and exhausting. Many parents also feel isolated as they remain home with their young children.”

These challenges are even more extreme for parents without a support network, Williams says. “Home visitors, who see parents struggling with a wide range of issues each day, are well positioned to help parents discover their strengths, relieve some of their tension, provide advice at appropriate times and generally put families on a promising path. Families who feel supported are more likely to provide children with the right environment for them to thrive.”

“The Council recognizes the work of home visitors, and we are committed to their professional growth,” Williams says. If we have more prepared, competent and credentialed home visitors, we will have more families with the knowledge and strategies to teach their children.”

And our youngest learners will be the ones who benefit most in the end, she says as she brings home the value of home visiting programs. “The more home visitors we have, the more children we’ll have in our country who are going to succeed.”

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