Early childhood, including the infant and toddler years, is a critical developmental period providing the foundation for lifelong relationships, skills, behaviors, and health outcomes. The importance of the adult-child relationships during this period is well established. There are a number of research-based interventions promoting responsive and supportive relationships at home as well as in early childcare programs. However, there are very few rigorously studied interventions that use aligned and/or integrated models supporting coordinated and consistent experiences across the home and early education environments. Additionally, there is a need for implementation evidence in typical home and classroom settings where young children spend much of their time. As part of a federally funded Early Head Start-University Partnership initiative, four research teams from across the U.S. were funded to contribute to the evidence-base regarding how Early Head Start and other early education programs can promote child development by supporting both parenting and center-based care. In this paper, we describe the many contextual, practical, and empirical realities and challenges encountered by the research teams and offer a conceptualization for how research-practice partnerships can provide an avenue for building “real world” evidence in these contexts.
Key Take Away Points
- Although the interventions being implemented and tested across the four sites differed, research teams encountered similar challenges
- Strong research-practice partnerships with trusting and collaborative relationships were essential in overcoming research and programmatic challenges
- Flexibility and creativity were required at multiple levels to address misalignments and ensure rigorous evaluations could be conducted.
- Alignment of the goals and priorities of research teams and their partners played a role in the success of implementing interventions for young children and their caregivers.
Susan M. Sheridan is the George Holmes University Professor of Educational Psychology, and Director of the Nebraska Center for Research on Children, Youth, Families and Schools at University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She conducts research on parent-provider partnerships and social-emotional interventions for children from birth to age 8. Veronica A. Fernandez is an assistant scientist at the University of Miami. Her research interests include understanding and improving the quality of early learning experiences for culturally and linguistically diverse children. Lisa L. Knoche is a research associate professor in the Nebraska Center for Research on Children, Youth, Families and Schools at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Her research interests include family engagement and professional development practices to support early childhood professionals. Ann Stacks is the Director of the Infant Mental Health training program at Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute at Wayne State University. Her research interests focus on dimensions of caregiving that support early social emotional development in the context of risk. Bethanie Van Horne is an assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine. Her research interests include postpartum depression, perinatal substance use, caregiver support programs, mental/behavioral health, child maltreatment, and services and programs for foster and at-risk families. Johayra Bouza is a postdoctoral associate at University of Miami. Her research is focused on understanding and improving the quality of early learning experiences for ethnically diverse children, ages zero to five, living in poverty. Silvia M. Niño is a graduate student at the University of Miami. Her research interests include early childhood educator well-being, and supports for high quality early education experiences for infant, toddler, and preschool children growing up in low-income environments. Daryl Greenfield is a Professor of Psychology & Pediatrics at the University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL. His work, positioned at the interface of research, policy and practice, forefronts science education as an inroad for improving school readiness for at-risk populations. Janelle Montroy is an assistant professor at the Children’s Learning Institute at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. Her research is focused on children’s development of complex cognitive and social-emotional skills and how environmental factors support that development. Kathleen Dwyer is a senior social science research analyst at the Administration for Children and Families. Her research interests include attachment, parenting, parent-child relationships, children’s social and emotional development, and approaches to building adult capacities to promote child development.
The projects described were supported by the Early Head Start University Partnership Grant Program, Grant Numbers 90YR0091, 90YR0092, 90YR0093, and 90YR0094, from the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Kathleen Dwyer served as the federal project officer. The views expressed in this publication are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, the Administration for Children and Families, or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Contributors to the EHS Parent-Teacher Intervention Consortium include the following: Johayra Bouza, University of Miami; Holly Brophy-Herb, Michigan State University; Veronica A. Fernandez, University of Miami; Daryl B. Greenfield, University of Miami; Ursula Johnson, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston; Lisa Knoche, University of Nebraska-Lincoln; Susan Landry, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston; Janelle Montroy, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston; Maria Muzik, University of Michigan; Silvia M. Niño, University of Miami; Claudia Perez, University of Miami; Katherine Rosenblum, University of Michigan; Dorothy M. Sanchez, University of Miami; Ann Stacks, Wayne State University; Susan Sheridan, University of Nebraska-Lincoln; Claire Vallotton, Michigan State University; Bethanie Van Horne, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
Sheridan, Susan M.; Fernandez, Veronica A.; Knoche, Lisa; Stacks, Ann M.; Van Horne, Bethanie S.; Bouza, Johayra; Niño, Silvia; Greenfield, Daryl B.; Montroy, Janelle J.; Dwyer, Kathleen; and The EHS Parent-Teacher Intervention Consortium
"Building a Real-World Evidence Base for Improving Child and Family Outcomes,"
Journal of Applied Research on Children: Informing Policy for Children at Risk: Vol. 11:
1, Article 11.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.library.tmc.edu/childrenatrisk/vol11/iss1/11