Policy Resource

Professional Development and Workforce Supports in Early Childhood Systems

Definition: Increasing the knowledge and skills of professionals working with young children and their families across sectors, settings, and roles. This can take the form of pre-service preparation, in-service training, cross-disciplinary training or continuing education, credit-bearing coursework, and job-related technical assistance such as coaching and mentoring.


  • Develop cross-system core knowledge and competencies for staff
  • Develop joint training opportunities
  • Implement specialized credentials such as infant-toddler specialists or family support workers
  • Work with higher education to increase cross-disciplinary course offerings
  • Include home visitors in career pathways for early childhood professionals
  • Pair home visitors with health, mental health, and/or infant-toddler consultants


Wisconsin developed competencies for providers and trainers in multiple programs and retooled their training to be more in-depth and cross-system.

  • Provider competencies were developed by a group that included child care, Head Start, Part C, infant mental health, and home visiting.
  • Trainer competencies were developed by child care, infant mental health, and home visiting.
  • The Training and Technical Assistance workgroup assessed home visitors’ training needs and retooled the training to be more in-depth and cross-system (including Head Start, family resource networks, Child Care Resource and Referral Networks, and Part C).
  • Home visiting training is also embedded in the child welfare training system.
  • Project LAUNCH (Linking Actions for Unmet Needs in Children’s Health) in Milwaukee provided training on adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), trauma, and worker burnout to home visitors and community partners.
  • Wisconsin has done work around reflective practice to increase capacity in communities.

West Virginia

West Virginia revised their core competencies to reflect all early childhood programs (Head Start, child care, pre-K, Part C, and home visiting), developed a competencies self-assessment tool, and held a combined early childhood/home visiting conference.

  • West Virginia revised their early childhood core competencies to be cross-disciplinary in a 3-year process with stakeholders from all programs coordinated by the Professional Development Committee of the Early Childhood Advisory Council.
  • They are revising their professional development system to reflect the competencies and also the Infant Mental Health competencies/endorsement.
  • After 2 years of a separate home visiting conference, West Virginia combined it in 2016 with the annual Celebrating Connections early childhood conference.

Rhode Island

Rhode Island developed core competencies for those providing home visiting and are creating a coordinated professional development system across home visiting, Early Head Start, early intervention, and child welfare.

  • The professional development system may include a registry for professionals to record progress on achieving core competencies.

Port Gamble S’Klallam

Port Gamble S’Klallam engages cross-system partners in shared professional development, which includes collaborative consultation, peer support, and reflective coaching around the Touchpoints approach.

  • This Washington State tribal community has built a strong approach to shared professional development across system partners—accompanied by collaborative consultation, peer support, and reflective coaching from an assigned mentor with the Touchpoints Brazelton Center.
  • This serves as the foundation for embedding the Touchpoints approach into the “way of life” across service providers and with families.

Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

In Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, as a part of a system of care Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), all TELI (Tribal Early Learning Initiative) partners engage in shared training focused on serving children with special needs.

  • A major goal of Choctaw TELI is to have programs work together to better serve children with special needs, with a specific focus on autism.
  • Next, the tribe wants to focus on shared training around behavioral needs and issues.

Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes

Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) has concentrated on creating joint professional development opportunities for providers with a focus on developmental screening and serving children with disabilities.

  • Some topics of the joint trainings were the Ages and Stages Questionnaire, the Developmental Indicators for the Assessment of Learning, and serving children with special needs.
  • Because the programs developed better understanding of each other’s services, the quality and timeliness of referrals has improved. Programs are more willing and interested in sharing resources with each other.

Cherokee Nation

Cherokee Nation is bringing together partners including Head Start/Early Head Start, Project LAUNCH, home visiting, and schools to engage in shared training and deliver evidence-based interventions.

  • Opportunities for providers to come together to engage in professional development activities aimed at improving child outcomes is a core component of the Cherokee Nation’s HERO (Helping Everyone Reach Out) Project.
  • Program initiatives from Head Start/Early Head Start to Project LAUNCH to home visiting to schools are all engaged in partnerships to deliver evidence-based interventions such as Triple P, the PAX Good Behavior Game, and the Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning, a national center that offers a pyramid approach and tools for supporting young children’s mental health.
  • The project works with 42 schools in 4 counties around social and emotional skill development by providing education and activities to teachers.

Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians

Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians cross-trains Early Head Start staff, home visitors, and doulas to work with families using traditional cultural practices.

  • Tribal core teachings are the basis of their approach to working with families.
  • Training topics include parenting, maternal depression, reproductive life planning, and reduction of smoking, alcohol, and drugs.

Intertribal Council of Michigan

Through the Intertribal Council of Michigan, staff from Head Start, home visiting, and child care are trained on a culturally based supplementary curriculum using medicine wheel practices to promote children’s learning.

  • Representatives of these programs share meetings and trainings through Honoring Our Children/TELI.
  • The curriculum was developed to supplement the Family Spirit home visiting model but can also be used by other staff working with families or directly with children.

New York

New York is conducting training for home visitors and community health workers based on a needs assessment conducted by the Maternal and Child Health Center of Excellence.

  • New York hopes to expand their training beyond funded home visiting programs as slots are available.


Nebraska developed online training and integrated competencies for professionals across early care and education, early childhood mental health, and home visiting.

  • Eleven universal competencies were identified.
  • The cross-sector work builds on home visiting core practices and principles online training released in 2012.
  • The online training includes 7 modules and is used primarily by home visitors and Part C staff.

New Mexico

New Mexico’s professional development system includes a family infant toddler track for home visiting and Part C, which embeds mental health competencies and reflective supervision.

  • The family infant toddler track is for staff working toward associate’s or bachelor’s degrees.
  • Infant mental health competencies are integrated into the coursework for endorsement.
  • All MIECHV (Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting)-funded program staff receive Circle of Security training, reflective supervision, and access to a mental health professional for consultation.


In Virginia, training modules developed among public and private partner agencies including public health, child abuse prevention, Parts B and C, behavioral health, early childhood mental health, and the state professional development work group are available to home visitors and other early childhood professionals.

  • Virginia is working to fully integrate a reflective supervision learning community approach for supervisors and a trauma-informed care reflective practice learning community for home visitors.
  • Partners are also working with the Early Childhood Mental Health Advisory Board and the Virginia Association for Infant Mental Health to support the Virginia infant mental health endorsement and Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning Model training among home visiting staff.


Illinois has a single training entity for all home visitors, provides infant mental health consultation to all home visiting programs, supports cross-training with other early childhood programs at the local level, and maintains the IGrowIL website as a resource for home visitors. Home Visiting Quality Summits in 2013 gathered perspectives from community-based providers and data on training needs through program monitoring to inform ongoing improvements in professional development.

  • The Birth to Three Training Institute is led by the Ounce of Prevention. Funders meet regularly to ensure alignment and quality.
  • Two Home Visiting Quality Summits in 2013 gathered perspectives of community-based providers. A white paper with recommendations and action steps resulted.
  • The Erikson Institute monitors home visiting programs funded by the Board of Education’s Prevention Initiative using the Korfmacher quality tool. Data on training needs are aggregated and shared with the Ounce to inform improvements in their professional development offerings. Illinois would like to expand this to home visiting programs funded by other sources.


Missouri is combining the Department of Health and Senior Services Home Visiting Summit with the annual Conference on the Young Years put on by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and is developing an association to promote home visiting regardless of home visiting model.

  • Home visiting will be a track at the Conference on the Young Years.
  • The Missouri Parents as Teachers Association is being formed to lead advocacy and professional development for all home visiting models.
  • Trauma training was provided through the Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems (ECCS) grant to communities, including home visitors as well as many other service providers.


Iowa developed an integrated professional development system for family support professionals from multiple sectors and leveraged that work to launch the National Academy for Family Support Professionals.

  • Family support professionals include 800 home visitors, early interventionists, and parent educators from about 160 programs in Iowa.
  • The professional development system includes an online learning management system, competencies and related assessments for family support workers and supervisors, online learning modules aligned with the competencies, specializations or endorsements for family support professionals, scholarships for those seeking a degree, and a workforce study to inform future professional development strategies.
  • Iowa launched the National Academy for Family Support Professionals in January 2016 as a multistate consortium. Partners are Iowa Department of Health, University of Kansas, and Quality Assist. The Academy provides a learning management system with 23 online learning modules based on core competencies critical for family support professionals.


In Louisiana, home visiting teams implementing two evidence-based models, Nurse Family Partnership and Parents as Teachers, participate in Foundational Infant Mental Health Training and receive ongoing support and guidance from an infant mental health specialist who consults with the team.

  • Foundational Infant Mental Health Training is a 30-hour training for nurse home visitors and parent educators.
  • Licensed mental health providers who have specialized training in infant and early childhood mental health provide direct clinical services to families and consultation to home visitors on their team
  • Infant mental health specialists are contracted employees and are paid with MIECHV funds. Leadership is provided by Tulane School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.
  • Louisiana is analyzing the evaluation results of the Infant Mental Health Augmentation.
  • After September 2017, MIECHV funds may be used to fund consultation, but will not be used to fund direct services to families.