Forming trusting relationships with parents is essential to keeping families interested and engaged in program services. The Growing Great Kids Curriculum provides a few modules to use at the onset of services that support families in gaining an understanding of the program design, the structure and flow of home visits, and what they can expect from the home visitor regarding their relationship. This information assists parents and home visitors in establishing a parenting partnership based on trust and mutual respect.
Paton, Grant, and Tsourtos (2013) conducted a qualitative study of an intensive home visiting program and found that the role of a trusting relationship was central to program engagement and led to participants feeling increasing control over their role as parents. They also found that trust had to be built-up and maintained to retain participants in services. (Paton, Grant, & Tsourtos, 2013)
Trust can be a challenge for parents who have experienced adversity during childhood. Other trust issues might be related to mental health conditions, grief, abusive relationships, or abandonment. Building trust should be your primary focus as you establish relationship and partnership with a new family. It should also be a priority to identify creative ways to keep families interested and connected to services over time. So, what strategies can home visitors consider for beginning to establish trusting and productive relationships with new families?
GGK has several resources that can be helpful. The Growing Great Kids Prenatal Manual and the Growing Great Families Manual both include conversation guides that provide an overview of the kinds of services you will be providing. They help you explore what is of interest to parents and describe what you will be doing together during home visits to support and grow parenting and life skills. These modules also give you an opportunity to discuss the importance of early childhood development and the influence that parents have on this development.
Be sure to review curriculum components including the child development activities, parent handouts, and other features that will create interest. Incorporating GGK conversation guides into each of your visits will enable parents to develop a sense of the partnership process and their relationship with you.
The Growing Great Families Manual also includes several modules in Unit 1 that will help you build trust by learning about the specifics of life in each family. Using the What I’d like for My Child activity, Module 3: Learning about Family Values and Strengths, and Module 4 on Family Traditions and Cultural Practices will create wonderful conversations to help the family understand that their values are a critical part of this process.
Remember also that the conversation guides are designed to help you maintain a strength-based approach with families. This goes a long way in the trust building process. Since every home visit is an engagement opportunity, every Growing Great Kids, and Growing Great Families module begins with a Making Connections. The Making Connections sections are conversation starters intended to connect with family members and build trust while exploring how things have been going with the family since the last home visit. This gives you the opportunity to find out how parents are doing emotionally and allows them to share accomplishments as well as any challenges they may be facing.
Through the development of a healthy and trusting relationship with the home visitor, the family will maintain program involvement. Here are some additional strategies to creatively connect with families not only at initiation of services but also throughout the course of service delivery:
- Convey the message “I care about you.” Do this by showing genuine interest in getting to know the family by exploring their interests, learning what is important to them, pointing out what you have in common, and respecting their values and culture.
- Show respect for their time, personal space and the authority of all family members who may play a role in your partnership.
- Make special efforts to involve Dad, Grandparents, and Extended family members.
- Look for and acknowledge parent’s strengths, skills, and talents. This will help in personalizing your engagement strategies.
- Ask about parents’ expectations for the baby and the baby’s meaning to the family.
- Explain that you are not coming to their home as “an expert”… you will be forming a parenting partnership as you explore and learne together.
- Create an environment of mutual respect; empowering the parent to become their child’s Development Specialist.
- Make your visits fun, engaging, interactive, and be sure to communicate your joy in being with the family.
- Be reliable, dependable, flexible, and consistent during every home visit.
Building and maintaining trusting relationships during every interaction with families is central to families gaining optimum outcomes from the work you do together.
Paton, L., Grant, J., & Tsourtos, J. (2013). Exploring mothers’ perspectives of an intensive home visiting program in Australia: A qualitative study. Contemporary Nurse, 191-200.