Now we know how technology can help bridge the gap between research and practice in parent training
With shocking cases of child abuse hitting the headlines regularly, it is clear why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention fund child maltreatment prevention research. Kathleen Baggett is leading a three-year CDC–funded project that trains home visitors to coach parents in responsive, sensitive parenting to nurture infants’ 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 at-risk 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 in 13 Kansas counties.
The technology is netbooks loaded with the proven parent-training program, PALS (Play and Learning Strategies). The built-in eyeball camera is the real key to training since it captures video of home visitors coaching parents and parents interacting with their children. This way, the home visitor can show the parent his or her progress and the child’s progress over time.
The videos are also essential to the professional development of the home visitors who consult with KU research staff weekly. When the research project ends, home visitors will have 50 plus hours of continuing education credits; their agency will have those highly-skilled home visitors and the “Infant-Net” technology in place, and best of all, this top-flight parent training can continue to benefit Kansas parents and vulnerable children.
The videotaped sessions will also help answer the essential research question—can community home visitors deliver PALS faithfully?
“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.
Funding: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention