Guest Contribution by: Alison Fennell
North Western Community Action Program
Early Head Start
Learn more about www.norwescap.org
New Jersey’s North Western Community Action Program (NORWESCAP) offers Early Head Start sites in 4 counties (Hunterdon, Morris, Sussex, Warren), serving 193 families. The programs serve urban, suburban and rural, highly diverse populations. To optimally serve such diverse needs NORWESCAP delivers Early Head Start using two models: home-based and combined model services, combining center-based and home visiting. Given this diversity, our experience is relevant to most other Early Head Start programs.
NORWESCAP has long valued the importance of the parent-child relationship in child development. Relationships are at the core of the Early Head Start program model. Since parent-child interaction is so central to our work, we felt a need to assess it to improve our services and produce evidence of our parenting outcomes. When our Early Head Start program was established 16 years ago, two consultants were hired to assist with our observations. The consultants created and in-house tool that was used by our Child Development Manager, and myself. However, the Child Development Manager, Roxanne Doran, and I found this tool didn’t define parenting behaviors sufficiently well, and so our results were too subjective and did not show outcomes or growth in our families. In 2008 at the Birth to Three National Training Institute, sponsored by the Early Head Start National Resource Center, I attended a presentation on KIPS, and decided to conduct a pilot. One home visitor from Warren County bravely volunteered to join me in participating in the pilot. We found that KIPS focused our observations on specific behaviors and provided useful information in working with parents. Based on this promising pilot, we decided to implement the parenting assessment at the home-based and combined model Early Head Start sites. We also decided to offer KIPS as supplementary service to families participating in the Head Start center-based sites.
Lessons Learned from Training in Parenting Assessment
We encountered some challenges in training the staff in adopting the Keys to Interactive Parenting Scale (KIPS). One was that there was a lingering effect from our in-house attempt at parenting assessment. Since our Child Development Manager and the Mental Health Manger had led our earlier parenting assessment effort, many of the staff had come to think that assessing parenting was the purview of mental health, rather than the home visitors’ role. With effort, we were able to reframe parenting assessment as focused on behaviors that would support their work in building parenting skills that would promote child development. Secondly, the staff took the online training individually. Over the years we have learned that personal support and interaction during the training sessions help the learning process. For those using the KIPS online training system, we recommend providing time for group discussion and questions and answers with a supervisor during the training. Discussion with co-workers certified in KIPS has proven very useful in learning to use KIPS.
Value of Training on Giving Feedback to Parents
Though our staff are very skilled and experienced in delivering Early Head Start services, formally addressing behaviors derived from a parent child-interaction assessment tool was new and unfamiliar territory. After two years of using KIPS, we had all the staff go through the Feedback Workshop. Participating in the hands-on workshop brought up examples from their own case loads to use in the exercises, which lifted our clinical use of KIPS to a higher level. The staff now seem more at ease in using the parent assessment information directly in guiding parents to more nurturing interactions with the new skills that they developed. The exercises in practicing giving feedback to parents were particularly useful. It was interesting that several staff indicated that the feedback workshop gave them a much deeper understanding of the role parenting assessment can play in supporting parents in nurturing their children. It appears to have increased the staff’s overall comfort in using the parent assessment information in guiding improvement in parenting skills.
Early Head Start Monitoring Review and Parenting Assessment
Since we first piloted KIPS, we have had two Early Head Start Monitoring Reviews. The first came while we piloted the tool. The review team enthusiastically encouraged us to proceed with incorporating parenting assessment into our services. By the second review, after implementing parenting assessment for the home-based and combined sites, the Monitoring Team was even more enthusiastic. Specifically, the Team stated that measuring parenting was one of the strengths of our program.
Though it hasn’t been easy, it has been worth it. Implementing a valid and reliable parenting assessment tool has provided our EHS program the ability to enhance family engagement through strengthening relationships which are key concepts for school readiness. We use the KIPS parenting assessment with several other evidenced based tools to demonstrate the growth of the families we serve. The idea that we can illustrate with evidence how our education, modeling and assistance creates a more cohesive, engaged and resilient family makes all the hard work of each member of the team, so rewarding.
Learn More About the Feedback Workshop.
Schedule a Free 30-minute Consultation on How the Feedback Workshop Can Improve Your Parenting Services. The consultation explores how improving parenting assessment feedback can:
1) Enhance Family Engagement
2) Improve Family Retention
3) Improve Staff Comfort & Skill with Giving Feedback
4) Improve Staff Comfort and Skill in Receiving Feedback
5) Enhance Supervision
6) Promote Continuous Quality Improvement