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Superintendents Toolbox

Early Intervention and Home Visiting

Early Intervention and Home Visiting programs provide valuable services to families at the very beginning stages of their children’s life.  They specifically target children that have identified or emerging special needs from birth to 3 years old.  

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Who are they?

The early intervention program in Kentucky is called First Steps and works with families of children with developmental delays (like communication, self-help, physical, etc) and diagnosed mental or physical conditions that will likely result in delays (like Down Syndrome).  

HANDS Home Visiting (which stands for Health Access Nurturing Development Services) focuses on providing families with information about importance of their child’s development prenatally to 3 years old.  All families that are expectant with their first child can choose to participate in the HANDS program.  Families receive information on community resources and some families will receive further support by a specialist that will deliver services right to their home.  Kentucky has also recently expanded HANDS to families with more than one child. 

What do they do?

Programs like First Steps are important, because they can act as a way station for children and families who need help navigating available resources. The services, themselves, will be as diverse as the children’s needs. When children are unable to meet certain milestones, like returning a smile at 3 months, or have lack of appropriate motor skills as a toddler, there may be a larger problem that may require a referral to medical, mental health, or social services to meet these issues in their early stages.

Some challenges can be met with parent education, while others may call for professional services. The important thing is that any service is provided in partnership with parents and families, with an emphasis on age appropriate responses that meet the needs of the child.

How can you partner?

Because early intervention and home visiting programs focus on establishing relationships with families with before their children are born, they can often be a community’s best resource for assessing the needs of children before they reach school.  All of these programs forge strong and trusting bonds with the families they serve and collect a tremendous amount of information on specific needs of your community’s youngest children.  When considering how to build or strengthen your district’s partnership with early intervention and home visiting programs you may wish to consider the following:
Step 1:  Understand who the main point of contact is within each of these different programs for your community.  Ensure that your preschool administrators know these individuals and can reach out to them to have conversations on your community’s needs.
Step 2:  Know and understand the various types of data that these agencies collect and can share with the rest of the community.   Often times, these agencies will produce needs assessments of the community they provide services for.  This can be valuable to a school as it can be used to forecast the needs of these children as they reach kindergarten age.

Step 3:  Deliberately include these programs to participate in your school(s) transition planning.  Because some of the programs stop at age 3, there can sometimes be a communication gap until children are entering kindergarten.  Leverage these programs to reach children and families that participate to minimize the service gap that occurs between three and kindergarten entry.
Early intervention agencies can help families of your preschool age children draw a line from need to available resources. First Steps can enroll families and HANDS can work together to provide trainings to families. They can help schools reach children who are not in Head Start, school-based preschool, or community childcare. They can partner with schools to ensure children transition into continuing services, once in preschool or kindergarten. They can participate in Community Early Childhood Councils to focus interventions on kindergarten readiness.