Family Foundations Early Head Start (EHS) provides early, continuous, intensive, and comprehensive child development and family support services to low-income families with children from birth to age three and expectant parents.
Family Foundations is a program of the University of Pittsburgh Early Head Start Grant, operating in high-risk neighborhoods in six local communities: Clairton site and East End site, hosted by The Consortium for Public Education; Sto-Rox site hosted by Focus on Renewal; Hill District site and Northside site hosted by Community Human Services Corp; and the Tri-Boro site hosted by Turtle Creek Valley Community Services.
Home-Visitor Services to Families
Families receive weekly home visits and participation in socializations throughout the year. The program uses the Partnerships for Health Baby Curriculum. It is supplemented by Starting Young, a curriculum that includes infant mental health activities that support parent-child relationships. Services take the form of an infant mental health model; that is, the program is parent-child focused and relationship-based. Home visitors use their relationship with families to model the family’s relationship with their children. Services are strengths-based, mutual, and transactional; that is, staff remain attuned to ways in which the child influences how the parent evolves in his or her role, and how those changes in turn influence the child’s development. Regular reflective supervision for home visitors is provided. Experiences during the home visit include the following (adapted from the Weatherston and Tableman model, 2002):
- Providing developmental guidance
- Identifying and providing resources
- Providing support for social and emotional needs
- Providing support for positive parent – child interactions, and to advocate for the child
- Providing opportunities for the parent to reflect on past experiences and their influence on current thoughts and feelings with the infant
Parents and children are at the center of the work, an approach that has encouraged the inclusion of fathers. Because visits take place in the home, fathers are engaged as partners when available. Home visitors also encourage mothers to allow non-custodial fathers to participate in home visits. As the program’s approach is dyadic in nature—supporting parents in meeting the needs of the child and supporting the child’s development to coincide with parents’ expectations—father engagement is a critical ingredient in service delivery.
Mental Health Services
To support staff development and keep an emphasis on families’ mental health needs, weekly team meetings are held at each site. Members of the mental health team attend these meetings. In addition, two case conferences are held per month. The case is presented by the home visitor and, when applicable, includes the perspective of the psychiatrist, program’s nurse, mental health providers, infant mental health consultant, and others working with the family. The infant mental health consultant makes recommendations for the child and parent which are often implemented by the Home Visitor.
Mental health services are provided by a team of professionals: a psychiatrist contracted for five hours a month and mental health counselors to provide services across the six program sites.
The program provides multiple avenues of mental health support and treatment referrals for families, which helps Home Visitors in their efforts to help parents focus on positive relationships and play activities with their children.