Guest Submission by:
Erin Cowan, MSW, Program Director
MyChild’sReady, Child Crisis Center,
MyChild’sReady (MCR) is an in-home support service for expecting mothers and families with children up to 5 years old in Mesa, Arizona. It is a program within the Child Crisis Center and funded by First Things First Arizona. A Parents as Teachers affiliate, MCR’s goals are for children to start school ready to succeed and eager to learn. MCR provides home visits, parent group meetings, child screening and referral to community resources. MCR currently serves about 200 families, of whom 45% are Hispanic, in Southeastern Maricopa County.
Our funders and Board of Directors wanted to know, beyond assessing fidelity to the Parents as Teachers model, how do we prove that our investment in MyChild’sReady is making a difference for families? We knew that we were following the PAT curriculum, setting goals with families and serving our contracted numbers. But we had no way of showing where parents were when they started with us and if they improved. We needed to find a way to assess parenting. After an extensive review, we chose the Keys to Interactive Parenting Scale (KIPS) because it fit well with the Parents as Teachers curriculum and had proven reliability and validity.
We used the KIPS eLearning online training course to certify our staff in using KIPS. At this point we currently have 17 staff certified to use the parenting assessment. We have used the online course to train staff individually and adapted the online course for use in group training. For both approaches, training takes about 10 hours, and over 90% pass the certification exam on the first time through the course. In our first year, we assessed 179 families with KIPS.
Using Parenting Assessment to Improve MCR Family Engagement
One of the challenges our program faces is high family attrition. KIPS has helped with getting the families to “buy in” to our program. By providing our staff with specific insights into the parent-child relationship, we can tailor our services to match their needs. Having new insights into the parent-child relationship allows our staff to provide more specific feedback to families. We also find that using the observational tool expands our view of parenting, so we are providing feedback on a wider range of parenting behaviors. Assessing parenting has improved how we set specific goals and how we approach working on parenting skills, in partnership with the family, to achieve positive family outcomes. Since implementing parenting assessment, we are seeing less attrition and more engagement by families.
Parenting Assessment to Improve Our Work with Families
The Parent Educators review the parenting assessment play videos with the families to identify areas of strengths and challenges. For those families that have lower scores on specific areas of the parenting assessment tool, the Parent Educators bring them up while reviewing the video. Then in partnership, they explore goals for improving in these areas. For example, when there’s a lower score on the Limits and Consequences item, the Parent Educator and family partner to explore options to address it together. As they explore, the Parent Educator brings materials on positive discipline, various discipline techniques, information on temperament, etc., to guide their work. Together, they identify small steps needed to improve in setting reasonable limits and consequences, which provides a sense of family ownership in the process. The goals established with the parents are reviewed formally every 90 days, so the process is documented.
At MyChild’sReady we have found parenting assessment useful for improving program objectives like family engagement and for informing our work with individual families. I hope you will join me at our session, Using Your Program's Evidence for Continuous Improvement in October at the 2013 Parents as Teachers Conference in Atlanta.
Special Offer Through June 2013 for Foundational Curriculum Users!
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The Keys to Interactive Parenting Scale (KIPS) to Unlock:
• Insights into successful parent-child interaction
• Evidence of outcomes to delight your funders