As we continue to plan for your safety surrounding making home visits, in efforts to establish partnerships with parents and caregivers, there are more aspects to be mindfully explored. Preparation, assessment and appropriate action characterize these considerations.
After you have determined ‘appropriate’ actions needed as your home visiting plan develops, begin to consider the next step in your plan- arrival at the destination.
If the area that you will visit is known as a high-crime community, where drug activity and violence are prevalent, or if the home that you will visit has a history of drugs or violence, along with your supervisor, develop a plan for specific ‘just-in-case’ scenarios.
As you consider your safety, do a little research. Contact local law enforcement to check for arrest records of family members. Note the types of crimes indicated. Note any violent crimes, as you assess your safety.
- Assess the area and your surroundings. Take note of crowds, locate and map out exits, parking lots and well-lit areas.
- When contemplating parking, find spots where you are able to back-in, for easiest exits. Park as close to your destination as possible.
Before getting out of your car, make sure that you are at the right destination. When passing others on your way to the home, it is best to make eye contact and politely smile. Exude confidence, but at all times, trust your instincts. Go with your gut feelings.
If you feel too uncomfortable upon your arrival, or before you reach the home, it is probably best to reschedule the visit. If you are threatened in any way, it is always better to yell, ‘fire’, than ‘help’. Studies show that people react more readily when they hear someone shout ‘fire’. Go figure!
Should someone approach you and ‘ask’ for your purse, for example, give it to them. In fact, take that purse, or other object, and toss it in front of you. Then run away in the opposite direction. It’s better to lose an object than to lose your life or sustain physical harm….unless you are trained in self-defense techniques. However, even self-defense strategies may not be reliably effective in the presence of a gun or other potentially lethal weapon.
Regarding your discomfort with the area, before you reach the door of the home, call and reschedule the visit. If you do arrive at the home, you may not wish to conduct your visit. If so, you will want to tell the parent that you received an emergency call from your office or home…. and ask to reschedule.
This is best rehearsed during the planning stages- another ‘just in case’ scenario. You will want to have a well-rehearsed excuse ready. Practice an ‘excusable’ excuse. Make it respectful. Consider the feelings of the parents, and remember that the objective is to cultivate alliances.
The very last thing you want to do is offend the family/parent by saying that you do not feel safe being in their neighborhood. After all, this neighborhood is also where they live. Making such statements will not give parents a very good first impression of you.
Your fears and apprehensions may have been shared at some point, and they may understand. But, should you take a chance? As stated before, they do live there and have to negotiate their own safety on a daily basis. And they must teach their children to negotiate their safety, as well. So, do rehearse ahead of time for that ‘just-in-case’. Be authentic, while being considerate at the same time.
With your safety and comfort in mind, you may decide that it is best to bring a colleague along. Make it a team effort. Do be mindful that should you consider visiting the home with another person, it may be off-putting to parents. Plan for your co-worker to remain in the car during your visit. Having more than one ‘professional’ visiting parents at the same time may feel as an ‘interrogation’. Parents may not be as ‘open’ to conversation than if you are visiting alone, which is more intimate.
There are strategically effective ways to navigate visits with two of you, and they should be discussed with your supervisor, home visiting program coordinator or the school’s administrator. It takes a well-organized team effort in order to create and maintain the authenticity, and atmospheric conditions and the relational dynamics leading to desired outcomes.
Remember the objective when conducting home visits. Demonstrating your interest in their child’s school success and comprehensive growth and development. A sincere interest in their child will have to include an interest in the caregivers. You want to foster meaningful rapport with family members and because you recognize their influence and expertise, you are certain that partnering with parents is vital to the learning process. Parents and educators need to be on the same page and reinforce each other’s expertise.
Next, safety considerations for when you enter the home. If you are experienced with conducting home visits in your work setting, do share your insights, tips and strategies.