The Parenting Support Program (PSP) is a home visiting program intended to meet the unique educational and support needs of pregnant/parenting adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities with children up to kindergarten or 5 years of age. The PSP uses a variety of strategies to connect with families via personal visits conducted in their homes, and within the community. PSP uses a Promising Practice approach and adapts two evidence-based curricula to meet the unique cognitive, adaptive, and learning styles of each family. The program delivers a set of screenings used to assess parent and child interaction, child development, and parental health and well-being. Home visitors collaborate with families to develop comprehensive individualized family education plans that foster knowledge and skills development. The program provides resources and linkages to community based supports and services to support the preference and needs and overall well-being of the family. The ultimate goal of the PSP is to assist families to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to navigate systems independently and with confidence.
From a programmatic perspective, during COVID-19, PSP moved from on site, in-person visits to remote, telephonic and virtual visits to ensure continuation of services. At the start of the pandemic, in-person enrollment continued. However, over time, enrollment was modified to include drop-off of pertinent forms, with telephonic, video or recorded consent, and photo emailing of signed forms. While practicing remotely, the program continued to provide family supports including, but not limited to, participation in IEP meetings, telehealth visits, multidisciplinary conference calls, and supervised video visits; support with filing of on-line court documents and related requests for waiver of court fees, and recertification for social service benefits.
During the pandemic, the program embarked upon a quality assurance activity to determine the impact of COVID-19 on families, and any unmet needs that PSP could address. Enrolled families received email invitations with electronic consent forms. The program modified the consent process as described above with the addition of reading the form with parents to ensure understanding, recording verbal consent, and asking for a photo version of the consent to be emailed to the program.
Home Visitors reported the following challenges:
- Technology- some families did not have access to computers, tablets, or in home Wi-Fi to support the use of Zoom for virtual meetings as recommended by national home visiting programs. To address this issue home visitors asked parents to identify their preferred way to meet virtually. Parents identified FaceTime, Google Duo, Messenger, and use of the telephone. Also, electronic devices were not always available for parents to meet remotely because of competing demands for electronic devices as children were home and needing to complete school work. To address this issue evening hour virtual visits became a practice.
- Stress- home visitors noticed an increase in families stress levels due to food insecurity, children being in the home for longer periods, parents taking on the additional role of teacher, and balancing the effects of social isolation. In response to these observations, the home visitor made referrals to food banks and food distribution centers; supported parents with structuring days with routines/schedules; did arts and crafts drop offs; and added mindfulness activities.
- Curriculum- due to inability to use standard training resources and handouts, parents were unable to access the curricula as they would with in person visits. To address this issue, a home visitor became creative by using additional visual aids, and transposing key curricula content onto oversized Post-it-Notes, to facilitate learning. Emailing families links to videos and related content, as well as dropping off printed resources became the new program norm.
The Parenting Support Program is a unique, family-centered home-visiting program designed to meet the needs of parents with intellectual and or other developmental disabilities. During this time of great upheaval, the program has become acutely aware that services need to expand to helping families identify and secure additional social services. We recognized early that our priority of providing developmental support required us to look more broadly at family needs and help them secure a variety of supports.
Wendy Jones, M.Ed., MSW
Program Director, PSP