Universal Screening/Newborn Encounters
The birth of a child provides professionals with a remarkable opportunity to support parents at a time when they may feel anxious, alone and vulnerable. The newborn period may be the beginning of a professional’s relationship with the family as they adjust to the addition of a new baby. Establishing an alliance with the parents as they allow you to enter their system of support will begin or enhance the Baby TALK trustworthy system of support. Developmental theorist Erik Erikson said that during infancy babies are learning about trust and mistrust.
What can be provided that will make every parent of a newborn feel supported and able to trust that system of care? If we use this opportunity well, we can facilitate the development of these new parents. We can establish trust which parents will transfer to other helping agencies, medical providers, schools, etc.
At every Baby TALK newborn encounter, the professional connects with the family over their shared interest in the baby promoting these four goals:
To “join” families in the beginning
To discover babies together with parents
To learn of the family’s needs
To offer supportive services and programs
In order to meet these goals, a variety of relationship building strategies are used by professionals when meeting new parents, including a protocol to guide the encounter and components of the Neonatal Behavior Observation.
A universal screening opportunity for communities offers the ability to identify unique needs of each family, enabling a community-wide system to meet these needs from the beginning.
Visiting new parents on the obstetric units when they deliver their babies has proven to be an effective avenue to reach most families in a geographic area. Hospitals are grateful for the continuity of care that a Baby TALK program can provide their families after discharge.
Baby TALK Home Visits with families provide an unparalleled opportunity to engage families around the development of their children. Baby TALK home visits/personal encounters focus on these goals:
- To establish and deepen working relationships with families
- To support the child’s development through strengthening the family-child relationship
- To collaborate with families to set goals for themselves and their children
- To support families’ mastery in their growth and development
Personal encounters may happen in a variety of settings, most optimally in the home. Due to safety concerns, it may be necessary to conduct some encounters outside of the home.
Using Baby TALK’s Encounter Protocols leads professionals to use their time with families in a way that meets the family’s agenda, not our own. No prescribed curriculum would be perfect for every visit.
The Baby TALK Home Visiting/Personal Encounter Curriculum spans from 1 month to 36 months of a baby’s development. Each month contains 5 weeks of curriculum from which the home visitor chooses. Flexible curriculum implementation is key in order to meet the specific needs of the family.
Using Baby TALK, centers build a trustworthy system of relationships to include Family Engagement Specialist (FES) and Families, FES and teachers, FES and leadership, as well as FES and collaborators. It is through these relationships that families experience a trustworthy system of support.
The Baby TALK approach, using critical concepts and strategies for engagement, result in:
Relationship-based outreach, recruitment, enrollment and retention of families.
Building collaborative partnerships with families, within the community, and within the center’s own system
Effectively engaging families in screenings, groups, individual, family assessments and goal setting
Through both case management and a focus on family/child relationships, family engagement within a center-based environment promotes family well-being, child development, and positive family/child interactions and outcomes.
Early Head Start/Head Start
The model supports the federal early childhood focus of providing comprehensive services to young children and families. In addition to meeting the Illinois state goal of finding and supporting children considered the most at-risk, the Baby TALK Curriculum meets the Head Start Performance Standard, 1302.51: Parent Activities to promote child learning and development.
The standard placed a new requirement on Head Start and Early Head Start programs to “at a minimum, offer opportunities for parents to participate in a research-based parenting curriculum that builds on parents’ knowledge and offers parents the opportunity to practice parenting skills to promote children’s learning and development.”
The Baby TALK Model also supports organizations in order to engage families in the casework process; we know that parent involvement initiates the safety, permanency, and well-being of children and families in the child welfare system. Family engagement specialists and family advocates view the parent as the expert on their family’s unique challenges and seek to collaborate in systems building within the family and within the community so families may develop long-term and sustaining solutions.