With a $2.5 million federal grant, a research team from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is exploring the power of partnerships to benefit Nebraska’s youngest children.
Led by UNL’s Lisa Knoche, the team aims to improve developmental outcomes — specifically language and social-emotional skills — for infants and toddlers. Their project is housed in UNL’s Nebraska Center for Research on Children, Youth, Families and Schools. It is one of four national studies funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families.
Together, findings will inform local and national Early Head Start partners, which provide early childhood services for low-income families.
To support Nebraska families, the UNL team is collaborating with EHS programs to implement the Getting Ready intervention – a research-based model designed to enhance early childhood development, primarily by strengthening relationships among parents, early childhood professionals and children. The model was developed in 2004 by faculty and affiliates from the Nebraska Center for Research on Children, Youth, Families and Schools.
While relationships are central to the Getting Ready research model, they are equally important for its implementation. Knoche and her team have worked with many of the same community partners for more than 10 years as they explore the model’s effectiveness for children of various ages across EHS home-based and center-based programs.
“By establishing long-term relationships with community partners, we are able to better understand their priorities,” said Knoche, research associate professor. “This study was born out of specific needs of EHS agencies, as they expressed interest in strategies that will promote coordination across home and center environments.”
In the project’s first year, researchers will work closely with EHS partners to tailor their intervention for infants and toddlers in center-based programs. For the remainder of the study, the team will test its effectiveness with 60 teachers and 240 children and their families.
“We are very excited to work with UNL on another piece of the Getting Ready research,” said Suzan Obermiller, early childhood programs director at Central Nebraska Community Services. “We definitely saw that (the research model) built upon positive parent-child relationships even further as our teachers went out and made home visits.”
The project’s fifth and final year will focus on sustainability, with the goal of making the intervention fully accessible to EHS programs. Research-based strategies will also support a wider network of early childhood professionals as EHS begins partnering with community-based child care centers. This allows the UNL team to impact children beyond those served in EHS, said Knoche, which is one of the project’s ultimate aims.
“We want to learn how this integrated intervention approach will support children’s well-being so that it could be adopted by other early childhood efforts,” said Knoche, who also directs the Nebraska Early Childhood Research Academy. “Our study fits into other research priorities at the University of Nebraska as we look to share information about how to grow and sustain community-based research partnerships in early childhood.”
The research team includes Lisa Knoche; Susan Sheridan, director of CYFS; Helen Raikes, professor of child, youth and family studies; Christine Marvin, professor of special education and communication disorders; and Leslie Hawley, CYFS research assistant professor.
The Getting Ready intervention was developed by Sheridan; Carolyn Pope Edwards, professor emerita of psychology and child, youth and family studies; Knoche and Marvin. It has been tested in two previous federally funded, randomized control trials: “Efficacy of the Getting Ready Intervention at Supporting Parental Engagement and Positive Outcomes for Preschool Children at Educational Risk” and “Parent Engagement and School Readiness: Effects of the Getting Ready Intervention on Preschool Children’s Social-Emotional Competencies.”