Photo: Family Service Advocates from NINOS, Inc. Head Start/Early Head Start, San Benito,Texas, proudly display their NHSA Academy Basic Family Services Credentials
The National Head Start Association understands the importance of enlisting skilled family and health service professionals in providing comprehensive, high quality services to children and their families.
Therefore, NHSA offers two credentials that are specifically focused on these critical support services to families. The Basic Family Services and Basic Health Services Credentials Program is designed for Head Start family and health services providers to demonstrate their knowledge, skills and abilities in 12 competency areas and the Head Start Program Performance Standards.
Credential Portfolio Format
The Basic Family Services and Basic Health Services Credentials Program is based on 12 Family Services Competencies and 12 Health Services Competencies, respectively, and align with the Head Start Program Performance Standards.
Both credential programs are offered in an electronic workbook format, referred to as, the Credential Portfolio. The Credential Activities are designed for the candidate —the individual earning the credential— to demonstrate his or her knowledge, skills, abilities and understanding of his/her role in the provision of family or health services.
As of July 1, 2014: All Credential Portfolios will be e-mailed to candidates as a PDF onto which candidates can directly type and save. Candidates must have an active e-mail address to receive the portfolio and other credential correspondence.
Family Services & Health Services Competencies
Photo: Erin Mercer and Erin Amidon left to right) of the South County Community Action Agency Head Start Program, Rhode Island, proudly display their Family Services Credential certificates.
“Earning the Basic Family Service Credential was an invaluable experience for me; it enhanced my knowledge of the Head Start foundation, serving as a reminder that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and giving me a renewed sense of purpose as a Family Advocate.” – Erin Mercer
“Going through the credential program reiterated to me how much Head Start components work together to create one, comprehensive, unified program that benefits the family as a whole.” – Erin Amidon
Completing the Basic Family and Health Services Credential Portfolios
Active E-mail Address Required
When registering, an active e-mail address must be provided to obtain the credential portfolio and other credential program correspondence. The candidate is welcome to provide an alternate active e-mail address. In this instance, the credential portfolio and correspondence will be sent to both e-mail addresses.
It is recommended that the candidate check spam and junk mail folders for credential materials and information. If the candidate has not received the portfolio within 5 business days of registering, s/he should contact Carleen Kinlock at email@example.com. The candidate is responsible for regularly checking the e-mail address(es) provided to obtain the credential portfolio, deadline date, and credential information. If the candidate’s e-mail address becomes inactive, it is the candidate’s responsibility to notify credential program staff by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If a candidate does not have an active e-mail address please contact email@example.com for an alternative method of receiving the portfolio.
Portfolio Completion & Review Timeline
The NHSA Basic Family and Health Services Credential portfolios are offered as an electronic PDF that can be filled out right on your computer. Candidates will need Adobe Reader to access the credential portfolio. Click here to download Adobe Reader.
After a completed registration and full payment are received the Basic Family Services Credential portfolio or Basic Health Services Credential portfolio will be e-mailed to the candidate, as a PDF, with instructions and a deadline date.
The candidate will have six months to complete the credential portfolio. Some candidates choose to complete one competency per week or every two weeks. The candidate should plan for time to re-read through the responses and to have the Credential Supervisor to review them prior to the six month deadline.
When the candidate has completed the portfolio, the candidate will submit it to NHSA for review. This takes typically takes 8-12 weeks. The results of the review will be sent to the candidate. Upon successful completion of the portfolio, the NHSA Basic Family or Health Services Credential will be awarded.
Thorough Responses & Examples
The candidate should be sure to provide thorough responses that address each part of the Activity including what his/her role is and real case examples where required. Include descriptive information and details to demonstrate knowledge, skills, and abilities.
In addition to written descriptions, several Activities require actual forms, regulations, and minutes of meetings. The candidate should be sure to include the indicated documents along with his or her written narrative response on how they are used in his/her Head Start/Early Head Start program.
In Your Own Words
In addition, it is most important that the candidate address the Activities in his or her own words. This portfolio is to be a demonstration of each individual’s knowledge, skills, abilities, thoughts and ideas. Be sure to add the sources for direct quotes and paraphrases of another person’s thoughts or ideas and information obtained from sources that did not originate from you, such as, the internet, books, and periodicals.
Describe Your Role
Responses should reflect what you do, specifically, not what the Family or Health Services staff do in general. Therefore, when an Activity requires you to explain how you accomplish a task or to describe your role, avoid general statements such as, “Family Services Advocates will…” or “Health Services Specialists conduct…”
You may find it helpful to have available the Head Start Program Performance Standards and the current federal monitoring instrument as tools to complete this process.
Photo: Allyson Ermoian, Family Service Advocate at Economic Opportunity Foundation Head Start in Kansas City, KS.
“My basic knowledge of Head Start Performance Standards really grew during the process of completing my Family Service Credential. I liked that it was a self-study, portfolio based format. My skills and ability to provide services to the Head start families I serve has become stronger due to participating in this process.” – Allyson Ermoian
Supporting the Candidate in the Credentialing Process
The following is a list of suggestions to help guide family services and health services candidates through the credential process.
It is recommended that a Credential Supervisor be in a current position in the program as a family or health services manager/coordinator and have at least five years of experience in family or health services, with at least three of those years spent in a Head Start program.
- Identify a Credential Supervisor to provide support to the candidate and coordinate the process. The Credential Supervisor should be someone who will:
- Encourage and motivate the candidate.
- Explain Competencies/Functions/Activities, as needed.
- Offer resources.
- Establish with the candidate a target timeline for completion that is prior to the six month deadline and make sure the candidate is on course for meeting that timeline.
- Proofread responses and assist with writing, spelling, and grammar.
- Review the candidate’s Workbook in its entirety.
- Make sure the Workbook is submitted properly.
- Request the expertise of the program managers in early childhood, health, family & community partnerships, and program design and management to provide training or tutoring in the Competencies that relate to their areas. These managers can review the candidate’s completed Activities that relate to their areas and make suggestions for improvement.
- Two or more candidates may go through the process at the same time. This will allow them to support each other and share ideas. The candidates’ responses will each need to be in their own words to demonstrate his or her individual skills, knowledge, understanding and ability.
- Recognize, praise, and celebrate with the candidate. This is a significant and valuable professional development opportunity. Candidates are to be applauded for their ambition to learn, demonstrate what they know, and improve their practice.
- Publicize when the candidate receives the credential. Post it on the program’s website and/or social media pages, in the local newspaper or program’s newsletter. The program can also recognize the candidate at an all staff meeting, program event, or other celebration.
What Family and Health Credential candidates said about participating in the program…
“This was challenge and rewarding… Thanks to you I have shared my experience with other coworkers of what the NHSA credential does.”
“Throughout this experience I have had the opportunity to grow in more than just the area of Health Services.”
“My basic knowledge of Head Start Performance Standards really grew during the process of completing my Family Service Credential. I liked that it was a self-study, portfolio based format. My skills and ability to provide services to the Head start families I serve has become stronger due to participating in this process.”
Registration is offered year-round for the NHSA Basic Family and Health Service Credentials. Therefore, there are no starting or ending registration dates.
For a downloadable registration form click here.
The registration fee for NHSA members is $695. For non-NHSA members the fee is $770.
For more information about the NHSA Basic Family and Health Services Credential Programs, please contact Carleen Wallington Kinlock, Professional Development Project Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.