The Healthy Infants Project: KU helps home visitors deliver effective parent training across state

The Healthy Infants Project, led by University of Kansas Associate Research Professor Kathleen Baggett, is a win-win-win for KU research, the Kansas Children’s Service League and the some of the most vulnerable children in the state—and their parents.

Funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as part of its effort to prevent child abuse and neglect, the project trains home visitors to coach parents in the responsive, sensitive parenting that has been shown by KU researchers and others to nurture an infant’s healthy social and emotional development The project is groundbreaking because it addresses a major problem—while proven parent training has existed for years, getting it to inexperienced, often isolated and transient parents has been problematic.

“We know that effective home visiting requires coaching that helps parents practice new skills with their babies during home visits,” said Baggett.

That has usually meant parent coaching by members of a research team—an expensive, time-consuming and ultimately limited proposition. But Baggett’s project gets this expertise rapidly and directly to families through a combination of technology and a partnership with the Kansas Children’s Service League, a highly respected agency whose staff of home visitors assists new parents across the state—including some of the most rural parts of Kansas.

The technology consists of netbooks loaded with the proven parent-training program, PALS (Play and Learning Strategies) and a built-in camera that allows home visitors to take videos of themselves coaching parents and of parents interacting with their children. The home visitor can show the parent his or her progress and the child’s progress over time.

The videos, which were quickly and securely streamed to the KU team, were also essential to the professional development of the home visitors who consulted with KU research staff weekly. Unlike most other research projects, Healthy Infants was designed to leave lasting benefits in place: 16 home visitors now have 50 plus hours of continuing education credits; the Kansas Children’s Service League has the expertise of those highly-trained home visitors and the “Infant-Net” netbook technology. Best of all, this top-flight parent training can continue to foster better parenting and, in turn, the health and wellbeing of infants and young children.

The videotaped sessions will also help answer the essential research question—can community home visitors deliver PALS as it was designed?

“Researchers often get to the end of community intervention studies and have no idea if the intervention was delivered as intended and with high fidelity, because these variables were not measured. This study is answering those questions,” said Baggett. “We are studying the process of translational science.”

The Healthy Infants project trained 16 home visitors who cover the following 13 counties: Bourbon, Cherokee, Crawford, Douglas, Ellis, Finney, Franklin, Leavenworth, Lyon, Montgomery, Reno, Saline and Wyandotte.

Translating Effective Maltreatment Intervention into the Community (Official grant description on CDC site)

Kansas Children’s Service League

PALS (Play and Learning Strategies)

Kathleen Baggett, Ph.D.


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