Lisa's husband had just left her and their three children when she first answered the door to meet Beth. The apartment was upside down, the kids had just eaten and were a mess, and the baby was fighting a nap in the loudest way possible. A "concerned party" had placed a call to social services because they were worried about the kids, and Lisa's ability to care for them without a job. She was terrified, and sure that this visit would end in the loss of her children.
KIPS Blog: Parenting Assessment in Practice & Research
Easter Seals Vermont provides a variety of family engagement services across the state. In seven child welfare districts, Easter Seals staff work alongside the Department for Children and Families social workers to provide preventative and restorative services. One of the programs developed by Easter Seals is called Family Time Coaching, based on Marty Beyer’s Visit Coaching innovation.
Since we are in between Halloween, when we give our children copious amounts of candy, and Thanksgiving, the national massive feast day in the U.S., childhood obesity comes to mind. This might be an ideal time to review a fascinating study revealing a link between parenting quality and obesity. First, some background on childhood obesity. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the prevalence of obesity has doubled for children, and tripled for adolescents in the last 30 years. Currently, about a third of children are overweight or obese. Obese children have a strong tendency to become obese adults. Obesity has health, economic, and psychosocial consequences. Treating obesity is difficult, with low success rates, so prevention is our best route. Certainly, there is a strong genetic component in obesity. However, the rapid increase in the prevalence of obesity cannot be explained by genetic changes in our population.
This week we share with you an exciting paper just published in Pediatrics, by Judith Carta and coworkers, entitled Randomized Trial of a Cellular Phone-Enhanced Home Visitation Parenting Intervention, Pediatrics 2013;132:S167–S173. We know well that the families most in need of parenting supports are the ones hardest to engage in services. Carta and her colleagues hypothesized that frequent contact with cell phones would improve outcomes. We have been anxiously anticipating the publication of this study because it is the first randomized controlled trial to assess parenting using the Keys to Interactive Parenting Scale as an outcome measure.
From the Voices in the Field Series, Yolanda Beltran explains how assessing parenting helps her partner with parents in her services to families and provides an example.
Many of our posts have discussed the value of assessing parenting in collecting evidence of outcomes (1,2 & 3) and for obtaining funding for family services programs (4,5 and 6). Beyond documenting evidence and obtaining funding, parenting assessment offers information to build nurturing parenting. Upon entry into a family services program, an initial parenting assessment can identify parents’ current strengths. As we have discussed earlier, identifying strengths and reinforcing them early can build a strong working relationship and increase engagement (7).
For the last 5 years Bill Gates has published an annual letter discussing a particular focus of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This year’s letter entitled Measuring Progress- Setting clear goals and finding measures that will mark progress toward them can improve the human condition was a most compelling read. In science, an advance in measurement opens up opportunities for new achievement. Mr. Gates argues how measurement empowers interventions for health, education, and well-being, which is the focus of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
In response to our last post on Supervision, Debbie Lancuki from Three Rivers Healthy Families in Virginia shared a comment alluding to the value of using video in family services. Debbie’s comment reminded me that one of the most common questions someone planning to implement parenting assessment asks is “Do we have to use video?” The simple answer is no. However, video offers so many advantages, that we strongly recommend that parent-child interaction be filmed for an observational parenting assessment. In this post we will explore the advantages for staff, supervisors, programs and families in using video to inform their parenting assessment. All the reasons to use video combine to support parents in nurturing their children.
Parents invest lots of time and energy into interacting with their babies, because it is most often a joyful and rewarding experience. Parents are wired to interact with their babies, and it is this interaction that supports babies’ growth and healthy development. I am sure you've noticed that babies are extremely curious. Even from the earliest months of life, babies are natural-born investigators. Alison Gopnik at the University of California Berkeley refers to it as the Scientist in the Crib. Babies use all of their senses to figure out how the world works. Some of their keenest interests to investigate are their parents and other caregivers. Babies learn how to express and regulate their emotions and how to navigate the rules of social initiations and responses by testing them in the safety of their early interactions with their parents. An interdisciplinary team of scientists at the University of Miami funded by the National Science Foundation observe and record the facial expressions and body movements of parents and babies during interactions. From this process they’ve found that when babies look away from their parents’ faces, it’s often because they need a break to check out what else is going on around them. So, if Mom follows that gaze of her 4-month-old son and talks with him about what he is seeing, she’s also supporting her baby's early exploration of the environment, even before he can move around on his own.
As someone who once taught Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI), I am pleased to hear the term more frequently used in family services circles (for detail see Childwelfare Information Gateway, The Casey Foundation, or Management Sciences for Health). CQI, or Total Quality Management as it is sometimes called, derives from the work of W. Edward Demming. Stated most simply, CQI is the use of information to guide improvement. As an evaluator, I find the notion of using statistically valid results to guide services very attractive. After World War II, Demming was unable to get much traction in the United States for his concept of making decisions based on consciously collected data. However, war-ravaged Japan welcomed him. Thanks to Demming, Made in Japan went from being synonymous with junk to becoming an expectation of high quality.