• The Interplay of Home Visitors’ Personal and Professional Identities in Effectively Screening and Supporting Women around Sensitive Topics

      Burruss-Cousins, Karen M.; DeForge, Bruce R.; 0000-0003-3665-1211 (2022)
      Home visiting programs provide information, support, resources, and tools that empower new parents to promote positive maternal and child health outcomes. During home visits, there is a unique opportunity to screen for intimate partner violence (IPV), reproductive coercion, and unintended pregnancy with women in unguarded settings (i.e., the women’s homes) while providing ongoing services via a therapeutic relationship. Using individual interviews and a deliberative discussion focus group, the current study examined the research question, to what degree do home visiting staff members’ personal and professional identities impact their ability to effectively screen and support pregnant women and new mothers around the topics of unintended pregnancy and intimate partner violence including reproductive coercion? Interviews and a deliberative discussion focus group were conducted virtually with staff members from Healthy Families America (HFA) programs in Maryland. Six major themes emerged from the interviews and focus group: personal versus professional experience, therapeutic alliance building, keeping families engaged, use of supervision, addressing intimate partner violence/reproductive coercion in families, and home visiting in the time of a health pandemic. Participants shared how their personal and professional identities helped shape their perceptions of their roles within the home visiting field including the terms, its meaning, and the expectations of that role. The findings suggest that home visitors need additional training around reproductive health since they routinely interact with pregnant women and new mothers who are at-risk for poor pregnancy-related health outcomes that may be due to the lack of control or intention related to reproduction. Participants expressed general knowledge, comfort, safety plan creation, and resource linking around the issue of IPV. Participants had received extensive training on administering the Relationship Assessment Tool (RAT), which is the IPV screener for HFA. However, relatively few program recipients endorsed that their HFA program recipients are experiencing IPV using the RAT. Therefore, HFA staff would benefit from advanced level training utilizing more clinical skills around the topic of IPV including advanced screening skills.