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Teachers home visits are effective, but safety concerns remain

Teacher home visits are an effective early intervention tool for preschoolers that build community and strengthen parent/teacher relationships, but the safety of those conducting home visits remains a concern, EdSurge reports.

Though no incidents have been reported, educators are becoming more wary of making home visits as violent crime in parts of the country rises.  Many educators have also encountered unsafe environments for children, including evidence of drug use or homes in disrepair. Staff of the early childhood entity Head Start, which mandates home visits, conducted 4.6 million home visits during the 2018-19 school year. The organization gives staff safety tips   like

Always sit next to the door.  Park in a place where you can quickly leave. Have enough gas and a spare tire. Identify safe routes in the neighborhood. Avoid walking through groups of people in the street or on the sidewalk.

Macy Jones, Head Start director for Alexander County Schools in North Carolina, told EdSurge  she has concerns about keeping her staff safe as crime escalates in her area. She said she gives safety tips to her staff that she never had to provide in the 1980s. Some districts, such as San Francisco Unified School District, have  safety protocols for home visits including encouraging teachers to conduct home visits early in the day, leaving jewelry at home and traveling in pairs. If a teacher is not comfortable going to the student’s home, she also should suggest a neutral meeting location such as a library, restaurant or conference room.

Despite perceived dangers, evidence  suggests home visits provide a good return on investment. One report shows for every $1 spent on home visits, nearly $6 is saved in medical, social and criminal justice expenses. In Tampa, Florida, for instance, home visits reduced abuse and neglect, increased immunization to nearly 100%, lowered the number of unwanted pregnancies, and slashed the number of sudden infant death syndrome cases in half.

McDowell County Schools in West Virginia is the first in the state to  conduct home visits of select students in all grades, including high school. Home visits to students in later grades are considered a proactive way to build relationships before problems arise. In this program, stakeholders hope parents of older students will build relationships with schools and that will, in turn, boost graduation rates.

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