You might say it started with a beautiful moment. Stephanni Renn, Vice President of Early Childhood/Sixpence Administrator at Nebraska Children and Families Foundation and Dr. Lisa Knoche, Rsearch Associate Professor and principal investigator of the Getting Ready Preschool Development Grant at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Center for Research on Children, Youth, Families, and Schools shared core principles of quality home visitation practices in a breakout room at October’s Nebraska Leadership Team meeting.
The two had known of each other for some time, and Renn recalled, when she had been a home visitor, admiring Knoche’s work. She said that she had wished at the time she had gone through Getting Ready’s training program. The training Getting Ready offers to home visitors, according to Knoche, is a bidirectional process that recognizes that “the parent is the expert on their child.” The program gives parents an active voice in the process of providers and families collaboratively building toward developmental milestones.
Part of Getting Ready’s process echoed in Renn’s and Sixpence’s own philosophies. Home visitors are trained to recognize and reinforce parental competencies by reflecting them back to parents so as to build confidence. Renn tells the story of her early training under Kansas City mental health professional Alice Eberhart-Wright, who called such moments of reflection, Beautiful Moments. Renn remembered working with a young mother who was engaging in parallel talk with her child, and Renn captured it on her phone. The young woman later said she understood “parallel talk” but didn’t know how to do it. The moment when Renn showed her the video of the mother actually engaging in the process was transformative.
Subsequently, Renn says she began to ask as a home visitor and continues to ask in her professional life to this day, “where are the beautiful moments here” that define a quality home visit, and in the discussion between Knoche and Renn they discovered overlaps in their visions of quality. That’s where the collaboration started—with a sense of connection and an attempt to find points of overlap between the two organizations.
Neither Knoche nor Renn knew exactly how they could collaborate, but they felt a kinship in their organizations goals and decided to explore further. As Knoche puts it, “sometimes you don’t even know what the final product is going to be. You need time for discovery to make it work.” So they made the time and discussed the possibilities of how the two organizations could work together. After the Nebraska Leadership Team meeting, they went back and forth, trading core components of their respective programs.
It soon became clear that home visits were the clearest point of overlap, and they began to discuss how Getting Ready’s training modules and coaching follow-up could be integrated with Sixpence home visitor training. The other thing they became aware of was that this was a project that would turn a smaller collaboration into something much bigger. In just their initial ideas, they realized they needed to contact the Nebraska Department of Education to ascertain whether they could revise existing training modules.
The NDEs feedback was that it would be better to develop a new supplemental module. And in conferring with NDE, both Renn and Knoche realized the discussion should be bigger, should involve other key players, such as the Buffett Early Childhood Institute, Head Start, and Nebraska Maternal Infant Early Childhood Home Visiting. The process was already moving from a simple collaboration to something that might help align home visit programs across the state.
The process is in its earliest stages so mostly what has happened thus far is planning. Obstacles, of course, stand in their way. Knoche points out that finding alignment of content is not an issue but that it will take time logistically to work with multiple partners to refine an approach that works for all. Renn adds that it will take time to come up with an overall design for new modules and that they will have to insure they have adequate funding to make the project happen. It does appear that the Preschool Development Grant will be able to provide that funding.
Both Renn and Knoche understand that overcoming obstacles is part of the process, and they’ve begun planning the best ways to promote Getting Ready training to Sixpence workers and how best to position it on community platforms. In addition, they’ve started examining where and what components of Getting Ready content they can best infuse into Sixpence’s existing training.
There is a lot of work ahead, but with a home visiting program that values affirmation of and modeling to parents and a training system that promotes parent-child connections and provider-parent connections, they are bound to find future beautiful moments in the alignment they create between early childhood programs and the parents who partner with them.