• April 2012
  • Vol. 13, No. 3

Printer-Friendly version of article

The Family Networks Project

Children with disabilities are at a higher risk for behavioral and emotional problems and for being victims of maltreatment. To improve outcomes for children with developmental disabilities and their families, the Family Networks Project in South Carolina, a research and demonstration project led by South Carolina First Steps to School Readiness and funded by the Children's Bureau's Quality Improvement Center on Early Childhood (QIC-EC), is implementing two strategies: a parenting program and a capacity-building curriculum for service coordinators. The strategies will be provided in different combinations in two separate regions of the State as part of a random assignment study to test their efficacy.

The project utilizes the Stepping Stones Triple P-Positive Parenting Program (SSTP) in a seven-county region of South Carolina to enhance parent confidence and competence and promote positive development in children with developmental disabilities. Stepping Stones is a variant of the Triple P program designed specifically for parents of children with disabilities. SSTP is delivered in family homes by parent educators specially trained and accredited to deliver SSTP. To be eligible for the project, all children are enrolled in the State early intervention system (Part C of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act or IDEA), called BabyNet in South Carolina. Children aged 0–3 who are at higher risk of or who currently have developmental delays are eligible for IDEA Part C services, which help enhance child development and well-being. All children are enrolled in the project prior to their second birthday. The project studies whether families experience improved outcomes when they receive IDEA Part C and SSTP services rather than IDEA Part C services as usual.

SSTP typically includes 10 in-home sessions and focuses on helping parents set goals and apply strategies to affect issues and behaviors that are important to them. The SSTP provider presents the families with a range of strategies to address their goals and then supports parents in the selection and application of strategies they want to try. The project aims to enroll a total of 50 families; 27 families are currently enrolled.

In a separate study in a five-county region of South Carolina, BabyNet service coordinators are trained using the Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect: Parent-Provider Partnerships in Child Care curriculum (PCAN). This training is intended to help these IDEA Part C service coordinators develop an increased understanding of the impact of child maltreatment and build better relationships with parents. This training addresses a wide range of topics, including healthy development in infants and toddlers, culture and caregiving, and supportive responses to troubled parent-child relationships. The project will study whether family outcomes improve when they receive SSTP services and IDEA Part C services enhanced by PCAN training as opposed to when families only receive SSTP services enhanced by PCAN training. To date, approximately 60 service coordinators have received the PCAN training, and project enrollment stands at 34, with 50 families eventually being enrolled.

Cheri Shapiro, the Principal Investigator for the project, stresses that it is important to remain flexible when working with families of children with developmental disabilities. SSTP providers may need to vary the length of sessions depending on family circumstances, and they may need to increase the number of sessions to accomplish the goals set by parents. Shapiro said, “Applying evidence-based parenting interventions in real-world settings requires flexibility while maintaining fidelity to the program model being tested. Our providers have demonstrated that these are not competing goals, and both can be accomplished."

For more information about this project, visit the QIC-EC website:

http://www.qic-ec.org/projects/columbia

Many thanks to Cheri Shapiro, Ph.D., of the Institute for Families in Society and the Parenting and Family Research Center of the University of South Carolina for providing information for this article.

Related Item

The Family Networks project and other QIC-EC projects were highlighted in the February 2011 issue of CBX. Check out "Keeping Young Children Safely With Their Families: The QIC on Early Childhood."

<  Previous Article   Next Article  >   Next Section  >>