Driven by curiosity: a Q & A with Mary McEathron

Mary McEathron

We’re excited to welcome Mary McEathron, PhD, as research associate and lead evaluator of the Trainer and RBPD Specialist Support (TARSS) program. McEathron received her doctorate in evaluation studies at the University of Minnesota and has more than 20 years of experience conducting evaluations and research projects. Before joining CEED, her experience included leading Rainbow Research, a nonprofit community-based research and evaluation organization, as executive director; she was also director of the Evaluation Group at the Institute on Community Integration.

What was the educational or career path that led you to focus on evaluation?

MM: My path to evaluation was very indirect, which is something that I’ve heard from a lot of people in this field. In my case, I studied biology and creative writing for my undergraduate and master’s degrees, after which I worked in nonprofits and program management locally and internationally for a number of years. During that time, program evaluation started to become a more common practice, so I had some familiarity with the basics.

The real pivot point in my career, though, came when my husband and I moved back to the Twin Cities in 2001. When we first arrived here, I worked in a temp job at the University of Minnesota. The unit I was working for needed to do focus groups. I happened to see a flyer for a 3-day workshop offered by the Minnesota Evaluation Studies Institute (MESI) that included a course on focus groups. I said to my manager, “How about I go to this workshop and learn about focus groups?” I got the go-ahead, and at the workshop I met a lot of local leaders in the field and learned that UMN had a degree program in evaluation studies. At the end of the first day of the workshop, my husband asked me, “How did it go?” I told him it looked like I would be going back to grad school!

How would you define evaluation for a layperson?

That’s a great question. When I tell people that I’m an evaluator, they sometimes ask, “What do you evaluate?” When I say I evaluate programs, many people ask, “Why?” People who have worked in grant-funded programs tend to know about evaluation simply because they are required to do it, but unless you have that experience, it may not be at all clear what it means or why it’s important.

What I usually say to people who aren’t familiar with this type of work is that evaluation is applied social science research. An evaluator works with a client or project staff and figures out how to answer questions about their program or project. These can be questions like, “What is working? What is not working? How do we know?” Evaluation pulls from the same set of quantitative and qualitative tools as research. It’s a little hard to generalize about the specific activities involved in evaluation, because there are literally hundreds of approaches.

The bottom line is that programs and organizations want to learn about what they are doing. They want to know what is working and what is not working and why. Sometimes, because evaluation is required by funders, the focus is on accountability. Accountability is important, but my favorite thing is to work with people who are curious. They want to make discoveries about their programs using evaluation tools. I love to help people get in touch with that curiosity—even when they start out thinking that evaluation just means checking a required box on a grant report.

Talk about your role at CEED.

The major focus of my role is evaluating the TARSS program. I’ll also help with other evaluation projects at CEED and provide technical assistance to the whole team for their qualitative research and evaluation programs. Part of why it’s so wonderful to join CEED is that curiosity piece that I mentioned earlier. This team has a great feel for the best uses of evaluation. They approach their work with a desire for knowledge and understanding. So I’m thrilled to join forces with my colleagues and add even more momentum to their work.

What will evaluating the TARSS program look like?

Right now, we are reviewing and implementing our evaluation process. What I can say at this point is that the work of TARSS is to support the full community of early childhood trainers and coaches in Minnesota. That means making sure that the feedback loop through which we gain knowledge about the program is working. What I mean by that is we need to create a cycle of knowledge sharing that includes all our stakeholders: TARSS staff, DHS staff, the practitioners in the field, and the educators whom they serve. We obtain data using different methods—focus groups, one-on-one interviews, surveys, training evaluations, etc.—and then we analyze that data and share it with the early childhood professional development field to help create change and improve programs.

Whatever data-gathering methods we use, it’s important to honor the time and effort it takes for stakeholders to provide us with feedback. We’ll ask people in the field what they need with an emphasis on inclusion so that all voices have the opportunity to be heard. The best decisions are made through that cycle of knowledge sharing.

What are some of your interests outside of work?

I love long walks and hikes in the woods, writing, and cooking dinner with my husband. I’m also really looking forward to farmers markets opening up soon.

“Kids don’t need us to fix everything; they need us to witness it”: Kristin Irrer on social-emotional development

Kristin Irrer

Kristin Irrer, MS, IMH-E®, has more than 20 years’ experience supporting children, their families, and those who care for them. A provider of reflective supervision, she is deeply invested in expanding access to reflective supervision and embedding this practice within infant and early childhood systems, including access for professionals in administrative roles. Irrer teaches CEED’s online courses Understanding Early Social-Emotional Development Using an Infant Mental Health Lens (UESED), Part 1 and Part 2, as well as RIOS™ 1: Using the RIOS™ Framework for Reflective Supervision. She is also the author of our self-study module Why You Matter: Professional Use of Self. We sat down with Irrer to learn more about the process of reformatting UESED into a two-part series. She also talked about what she hopes participants will gain from the course.

Who do you see as the main audience for the UESED courses?

KI: Typically participants work in the infant and early childhood field, but one exciting thing about this course is that the information has really broad application. People who work in any role that supports young children will find this course relevant to their work, whether they are educators, social workers, early interventionists, or administrators, for example. Some participants have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree; others have a master’s degree. Many participants are looking to refresh and reconnect with what they know about their field; others want to learn more about the most up-to-date science. If participants want to take their learning further, these courses can also be applied toward the Supporting Early Social and Emotional Development credential. The credits gained through this coursework can also be applied to obtain or renew Infant or Early Childhood Mental Health Endorsement through the Alliance for the Advancement of Infant Mental Health.

UESED has been reformatted into two 5-week sessions, as opposed to a single, 13-week session. Why break the course into two parts?

We felt the 13-week commitment was a barrier to some students, so we retooled the course to be more accessible. We put a lot of thought into restructuring the coursework to better fit the needs of our busy students. The five-week courses are intended to help students digest the content in a more manageable timeframe. Additionally, we reframed the content to include more self-reflection. You will find more reflective prompts in the course, such as, “This week, casually observe someone in your environment who is interacting with a child aged 3 or under.” We encourage participants to start a journal and write down their thoughts, but they aren’t required to share them. Slowing down and deepening our understanding is an important theme of this class. We hope the two-part series will feel supportive to the very busy participants who are balancing many roles and expectations.

What does it mean to look at social-emotional development through an infant mental health lens?

Infant mental health by definition refers to how well a child develops socially and emotionally in the early years. So when we talk about social-emotional development from an infant mental health perspective, it’s wrapped up in the context of a relationship with an attachment figure and embedded in the culture and community in which the child develops. We are not exclusively looking at the child, we are noticing the whole dyadic system. Relationships are the cornerstone for all young children’s learning. When we are using an infant mental health lens with our work, this concept becomes the centering point for understanding social-emotional development.

You mentioned that a relationship with an attachment figure is key to infant mental health. What is attachment?

Attachment is our emotional bond that connects us to our important people. Infants bring something to this developing system just as adults do: it’s a two-way street. It’s the interactions between an infant and an important adult, over time, that allow the child-and-caregiver dyad to form emotional bonds and a felt sense of connectedness.

The foundation for attachment starts when a baby is born: when the baby displays hunger cues, does someone respond? How do they respond? When the baby fusses, does someone come and figure out what they need? Through these everyday interactions, over time, the baby is learning: “If I cry, does someone comfort me?” In the infant and early childhood field, we sometimes call this interactive behavior of the caregiver and child “serve-and-return.” Through these back and forth interactions, babies learn whether their needs will be met and whether an adult will show up–even if they don’t get the baby’s needs right every time. This attachment relationship becomes our roadmap of how to be in the world with others. Our primary attachments are alive in all of us, even as adults.

What does it mean to say a child is “securely” or “insecurely attached”?

Securely attached infants learn to trust that adults will respond to them and take care of their needs.They experience adults who are sensitive and are attuned to their bids for interaction. Adults can behave in ways that allow the child to feel more secure or a little more anxious or insecure in the relationship. If a person develops an insecure style of attachment, it can take one of three forms: avoidant, ambivalent, or disorganized. Children who we would consider to be in the “insecure” categories of attachment relationships experience adults who are less consistent, nurturing, or responsive to their needs. Children then adapt their own behaviors to get their needs met. Most of us in the field can’t “diagnose” attachment styles, but we most certainly can notice parent or caregiver and child behaviors that give us good information about the attachment relationship.

What would be some symptoms of disorganized attachment?

Disorganized attachment refers to a situation where rather than being a source of comfort, the adult in the attachment relationship is a source of alarm. The adult’s behavior is too unpredictable or scary for the child to grow to trust them. This way of being leaves the child in a constant state of fear. Typically trauma is embedded in disorganized attachment styles.

Attachment relationships influence how children treat others and how they expect others to treat them. Outside the context of their family, children who experience a disorganized primary relationship might display extreme behaviors that look like escalation, disorganization, fear, or anger. These children may be unable to go to an adult for help, because their expectation is that adults cannot be trusted and may harm instead of help.

A major theme in the UESED courses is the idea that we adults bring our whole selves–including our trauma and our relationship history–to our interactions and relationships with children. This is true of parents and caregivers and it’s also true of those of us who work with children. This is an important piece that we tend to overlook when we are solely focused on a child’s development, and it allows us to think more deeply about social-emotional foundations and developmental milestones. We can remind ourselves, “Adults are part of this developing emotional system, too.”

Can an attachment figure be someone other than the child’s parent or primary caregiver?

Yes! We call these secondary attachment figures. I think it’s especially important to talk about them in the context of the stress, upheaval, and trauma that COVID-19 has caused in many families’ lives. Who else is important in our children’s lives, besides their parents or primary caregiver? Along with primary attachments, these other significant relationships hold important potential to buffer stress for children. This also speaks to the fact that we need to do a better job at supporting child care providers and others who work with young children, because their emotional selves show up in those important secondary attachment relationships.

You mentioned that the information in this course is applicable even for people who don’t work directly with children.

Absolutely. It is important that supervisors, policymakers, and administrators continually consider children’s perspectives and emotional experiences. Again, adopting that lens means taking into account the fact that social-emotional development is something that happens in the context of a relationship. This is tricky, because a relationship is difficult to see, target, talk about, or put a number on. But take a moment to wonder: what if supervisors and administrators, even though they’re sitting at desks instead of standing in a classroom, bring this lens into their work? They have the capacity to make decisions with the knowledge that anything they do affects relational outcomes for kids, from filling in forms to determining funding. What a powerful lens to hold for babies and families!

This is the crux of what I hope people get out of the class: the notion that social-emotional development is dependent upon relationships. Armed with this understanding, you can more deliberately be a foundation for social-emotional growth and development, no matter your role in the field. Prioritizing early attachments that play a crucial, lifelong role in our overall development is essential for healthy outcomes for babies.

Is social-emotional development different during pandemic times?

A lot of us have questions about how all of this is affecting kids emotionally. Learning about brain development is a big piece of this class. And I like to reassure people that brains are still developing during the pandemic!

We know that at baseline children will continually work to make sense of their experiences in the world, usually through play. This is especially true in times of uncertainty, change, and stress. I’ll give you an example. My four-year-old was playing tag with neighbors’ children. They were playing “COVID tag.” I asked him, “How does that go?” He said, “Well, if you get tagged, you have COVID, and you sit down. The only thing that can rescue you is the vaccine. You have to get tagged by the vaccine to get up and play again.” This was such a great illustration of my son and his friends using social games as a framework for making sense of the confusing times we are experiencing. Kids have wonderful abilities to sort through their significant emotional experiences and make sense of them.

I think one message of this course is that you don’t have to necessarily “fix” social-emotional development, even under stressful circumstances like a pandemic. By just showing up and being with children, noticing them, you are supporting children’s development. This is true of adults, too, by the way. This is really the magic of what relationships give us. One of the biggest predictors of our capacity to be resilient is our primary attachment styles. In other words, the responsiveness that adults show to our emotional needs influences our level of resilience. Kids don’t need us to fix everything; they need us to witness and be with them in it. This simple act boosts their social-emotional development.

Helping child care providers reach their goals: a Q & A with Kami Alvarez, professional development specialist in Minnesota’s Department of Human Services

Professional Development Specialist Kami Alvarez oversees the Trainer and RBPD Specialist Support (TARSS) grant as part of her role in the Minnesota Department of Human Services. In this Q & A, she shares her perspective on the professional development landscape for child care providers in Minnesota. She explains how the state’s professional development system for child care providers works. She also provides insight into how trainings are developed and delivered.

Kami Alvarez

Thank you for taking time to share your perspective with our readers! You work in the Child Care Services Division within the Department of Human Services. Can you give us an overview of that unit’s work?

KA: We have two units within the Child Care Services Division. One unit oversees the Child Care Assistance Program. This program provides subsidies for child care to low-income families. The second unit is called Child Development Services (CDS). I work in CDS. We are primarily focused on quality measures. We oversee Parent Aware, which is Minnesota’s voluntary quality rating and improvement system for child care providers. We also serve child care providers in Minnesota by helping them access professional development and improve the quality of their programs.

My own work is focused on professional development for child care providers. Minnesota’s professional development system for child care providers was mandated in a state statute in 2007. So the state government has certain responsibilities to providers. The system was set up to help child care providers of many different types to reach their professional development goals. That can mean training, mentoring, consultation, and more. My team makes sure child care providers have access to those things.

What are the main reasons why child care providers seek out professional development?

There are three main reasons for providers to participate in professional development. The first reason is in order to obtain or maintain a license to provide child care. There are different license types that are issued by the Department of Human Services’ Office of the Inspector General. We often say that they’re the regulatory folks and we’re about quality. Achieving that license is a minimum standard.

When a provider is licensed, they need certain training. Licensing gives us the standards the training must meet: hours, topics, and so on. We design the training and for the most part we work with grantees who deliver the training.

The second reason is to participate in Parent Aware. Providers want to do their jobs well so that the kids they serve have more skills and more opportunities to learn. Parent Aware looks at raising the quality of child care so that children are ready for kindergarten. We have trainings for in-home providers and center staff that help raise program quality and help providers achieve higher Parent Aware ratings.

The third reason is that providers are seeking ways that they can advance their careers with short- and long-term professional development goals. Often, people join this field with no postsecondary education. We help them advance their careers, for example, by funding professional development advisors in all areas of the state. These career advisors sit down with providers and help them plan: “What training and education do I have? What are my goals? Where do I want to be? How do I get there? How do I fund it?”

CEED recently became the home of the Trainer and Relationship-Based Professional Development (RBPD) Specialist Support (TARSS) program. How does TARSS fit into your work?

The professional development team here at CDS makes grants to organizations that serve child care providers. We’re responsible for policies and fiscal management, and we help grantees develop procedures to serve child care providers. The grantees then directly provide services like training and coaching.

TARSS is one of these grantees. The program supports trainers and RBPD specialists—people like coaches, mentors, and classroom observers. They work directly with child care professionals, providing health and safety coaching, mental health coaching, professional feedback, and other important services.

Your background is in social work. What was the career journey that brought you to professional development?

I worked for many years as a social worker in nonprofits and then in child protection and welfare in county government. I have experience in adoption, home studies, and child care licensing. My bridge to DHS was that in 2008 I started working for the Minnesota child welfare training system for foster parents, social workers, and supervisors. I led foster parent training and curriculum development, all of which we did in house.

In 2016, I moved from that division to the Child Care Services Division to work on our state-owned curriculum. We’re responsible for more than 300 professional development courses that are delivered statewide. We fund and administer Develop, an online tool where providers can take courses and track their professional development. Our state-owned courses are available in Develop along with other training opportunities. I also work with the Child Care Aware training and delivery system. So I collaborate with trainers, course writers, and all of our grantees that work on regulating, approving, and delivering trainings.

Are there new courses coming soon in Develop that readers should keep an eye out for?

Yes, we will soon be offering a set of courses on trauma-responsive care that are designed for child care providers. Up until now, we have not had anything in our system that was specific to what child care providers can do around trauma-responsive care. I’m really looking forward to introducing these courses.

Do you develop the curriculum for courses like those?

In this case, I participated in a collaboration with the federal Office of Child Care. In addition to the federal workers, our committee convened people from 14 or so different states. We met over the course of about half a year to work on the curriculum. The Office of Child Care came up with a draft, and the rest of us helped shape and refine it. We also had input as to how it should be delivered in our states. So I am not the writer of this curriculum, but I helped create, shape, and Minnesota-ize it, you might say!

What are things you think about when designing a training or curriculum?

In instructional design for this audience, I have to be very mindful that the curriculum must be delivered statewide to all Minnesotans. What that means, in terms of the construction and content of a course, is that the activities, examples, and graphics have to be representative of the diversity of our communities in Minnesota. We design content with an equity lens to make sure that it’s going to be applicable in the metro, in rural Minnesota, on a reservation, in an urban community. We’re intentional and thoughtful about the different pieces that we put in—we’ve got to make sure that the information is useful and that it will actually be applicable. Providers don’t have a lot of time to participate in professional development each year, so we work hard to make sure they get what they need during that limited time.

I also think about empowering trainers, because in this field they may work with very diverse providers from different backgrounds. The providers also may have very different jobs. Center staff, family child care providers, center directors, substitute child care workers—these are really different roles. So when I think about a topic and how we talk about it, I make sure it is not specific to one type of role or one geographic location or one level of formal education. Often that means that trainers need to have multiple options to give them the flexibility to say, “Tonight I have a group of mostly family child care providers versus another role, so I’m going to present the information this way.”

The trainer has to gauge the room with a lot of emotional intelligence. A lot of times when we start out a training with icebreaker questions, it’s so that the trainer can figure out who is in the room. Then they can flex the content and activities while still maintaining the important points. This is very challenging work compared with something like training people to use a software program. Minnesota has a wide variety of communities, and a trainer can’t assume, for example, that their audience is college educated or that their first language is English. Meanwhile, these trainings are about topics that are serious in nature—health and safety, things like abusive head trauma or SIDS. So trainers have to ensure that the information is getting across.

Since your work is mandated by the legislature, do laws that get passed affect your work and impact what you do?

Yes, both federally and at the state level. On a day to day basis, there’s a regular cycle of the legislature. We’re a part of that, particularly when it has to do with changes to license types and training requirements. Often, the legislature asks for technical assistance from my unit to understand the professional development system, courses, and trainers. A lot of decisions are made based on what is in statute. So when a statute changes, I have to change our courses.

There are also different federal funding streams that come to our unit. The law tells us what we need to do with that money. Some funding for federal initiatives passes through state governments to grantees. Some work we accomplish in house. Whatever the case, we need to do the work and document it, and then it is audited both at the state and federal level.

Sometimes, federal funding has a broader description because it is distributed nationwide, and things look different in Alabama versus Alaska, for example. So the federal government says, “Here is what the money is for; you figure out how to do the work in Minnesota.” In those cases, we put on our thinking caps, come up with our best plan, and execute the plan, often through a grant contract. We monitor the work and report back to the federal government regularly: What did we do? What did it cost? What change did we accomplish?

Does the legislature consult you about legislation or changes to legislation that they are considering?

Yes, they often ask for fiscal notes, data, and technical perspectives. They might ask, “How much would it cost to implement this? How could we make this happen in a certain framework?” Sometimes they request data around the people we serve and how we serve them. They want to get a sense of the potential impact if they change something. Who will be affected? Who will not be affected? Sometimes they are considering putting forward a new policy, so they ask for statistics that give them a fuller picture of a proposal’s effects and how it will be carried out.

What do you do in your free time (assuming that you have any free time!)?

I’m a Girl Scout leader. My daughter, who is twelve, has been in Girl Scouts since first grade. I enjoy being outdoors and doing activities like archery and kayaking. I also like to travel—when we don’t have a pandemic! When we’re at home, we enjoy our two rescue cats.

Did you catch Alyssa Meuwissen on KSTP?

Research Associate Alyssa Meuwissen, PhD, appeared on Minnesota Live to discuss the challenges that children (and adults) have experienced in adapting to in-person school and activities after months of social distancing early on in the pandemic. 

Watch the video.

Meuwissen compared our rusty social skills to a muscle that needs strengthening through practice. One way for parents and caregivers to help children practice these skills is to engage in pretend play with them. Adults can help children act out social scenarios with dolls and puppets, trying out different ways to respond, for example when meeting someone for the first time or asking another child to play.

Joy, meaning, and belonging through community: a Q & A with TARSS RBPD Specialist Rowie Lund

This fall, we welcomed a new staff member, Rowie Lund, to the TARSS team. Lund’s professional background includes more than 20 years in the early childhood sector. In this Q & A she talks about her career path and her new role as the TARSS relationship-based professional development (RBPD) specialist.

Rowie Lund

What was the educational and career journey that led to your current role at CEED?  

RL: I began my child care career as a camp counselor at YMCA Camp Icaghowan while I was in college. After getting my BA in psychology, I worked with younger children in a pre-K camp and a K–1 after-school program in Lincoln, Massachusetts, eventually finding my niche in early childhood. While we were living near Boston, I also had the opportunity to study flute and film scoring at Berklee College of Music, a lifelong dream of mine! While I decided not to pursue a music career, music has been an integral part of my teaching. 

Some highlights of my career include teaching enrichment lessons at KinderCare, leading parent-child music classes, and expanding child care capacity as a center director in Wisconsin and Minnesota. In 2017, I became a Parent Aware Quality Coach for Carver and Scott Counties. During my time there, I spearheaded a new learning community and found a new spark for supporting and mentoring adult learners. The early childhood field is so demanding. Adults deserve the same care and attentiveness that we offer our students. I am very excited to be a part of the TARSS team at CEED, where I can continue to learn and grow while supporting adults in the field.

What are you most excited about in your new role as TARSS RBPD specialist?

We are launching new online learning communities for trainers and RBPD specialists in Minnesota. I am excited to offer this chance for trainers and coaches to connect with each other and grow (in both numbers and capacity). The feeling of belonging to a community is so regenerative and essential. I am hopeful that people in these learning communities will form new friendships and collaborations, get more joy and meaning from their work, and feel supported in continuing their important jobs.

What is something that most people don’t know about the early childhood sector?

Most people do not understand how badly early childhood education needs public investment to survive. Early childhood educators are expected to stay in the field out of the goodness of their hearts, even if it means low compensation and few or no benefits. Early childhood education is truly one of the most demanding professions in existence. Physically, you need to be active most of the day, which for some educators can be as long as 10–12 hours. Emotionally, you need to maintain your calm in chaotic, loud environments with very few breaks, especially if you are a family child care provider. Funding and public investment in early childhood are essential to keep our littlest learners safe and thriving, especially post-pandemic. The return on investment is seen in better outcomes for children which leads to improved communities and a better-educated workforce.

What are some of your interests and hobbies outside of work?

I have four children ages 1, 4, 8, and 11, so most of my free time is spent playing with my kids and helping with homework. When I do have the time, I enjoy writing songs, swimming, canoeing, reading, and scrapbooking. I also love to go out to live theater, dance, concerts, and musicals.

Reflective practice as “a journey with no final destination”: a Q & A with Tanika Eaves

Tanika Eaves

We’re excited to share a Q & A with Tanika Eaves, PhD, LCSW, IMH-E®, assistant professor in the social work program at Fairfield University. Eaves is the author of our brand-new self-study module: A Trail Guide for Your Journey: Receiving Reflective Supervision. Here, she shares her thoughts on balancing the theory and practice of reflective supervision, on embracing the emotions that arise when working with young children, and on valuing the journey—rather than the destination.

Who do you see as the audience of this module? Who do you think would benefit from enrolling in this module?

TE: A Trail Guide for Your Journey is intended for infant and early childhood professionals who are new to reflective supervision and may be at the beginning of their journey in terms of experiencing a reflective supervisory relationship. The module would be beneficial for practitioners who are beginning to learn about reflective supervision and for supervisors who are beginning training in reflective supervision.

What reflections or realizations did you have while building the content for this module?

As a college instructor, I was accustomed to developing a semester’s worth of content for online courses. Creating a module intended to last a maximum of three hours challenged me to focus on the essentials and pare down module content.

I also felt the need to make content and material as engaging and digestible as possible for the intended audiences. Although it’s important for participants to understand the theory underlying reflective supervision, it’s equally important to illustrate its practical value. It was a refreshing shift for me as a reflective supervisor to use video, meditation, and multi-modal strategies to connect theory with practice. I also found myself being especially attentive to emotional content and the common stressors of infant and early childhood work. I wanted to normalize feelings that perhaps as practitioners we may unconsciously suppress.

What drew you to your field of study and the kind of work that you do?

I have always been interested in human behavior and development. I studied psychology as an undergraduate with an interest in neuroscience. After spending a semester volunteering for Head Start as part of a service learning course in child psychology, I became intrigued with early childhood development and influencing factors. 

My first job after college as an infant/toddler teacher in a corporate child care center. Two years later, I began my master’s in social work at Rutgers University and was determined to integrate early childhood development with social work. While at Rutgers, I completed an interdisciplinary certificate program as an infant-child specialist with the educational psychology department to complement my MSW. My work as a social worker has always been specialized to serve the needs of infants, toddlers, young children, and families as a therapist; as a broker of services and resources; and as an advocate for changes in policies, practices, and service delivery systems that reflect the challenges facing families transitioning into parenthood in the 21st century. 

In my second career as a faculty member and emerging researcher, I still work on behalf of young children and families. I strive to produce scholarship that both elevates the experiences of practitioners working with this population and challenges service delivery systems to enact positive change and advance equity and social justice for all young children and families.

What are the top three takeaways that you hope students come away with from this module?

  • Developing reflective practice is a journey and a process with no final destination;
  • The reflective supervisory relationship can ground our practice work and make us better practitioners; and
  • Accepting and embracing emotional complexity and the continuum of feelings associated with working with young children and families is essential. This must be supported in the workplace as well as in the supervisory relationship.

Are there any additional thoughts you would like to share?

It was an incredible privilege to develop this module and a great reminder that I am still learning and moving along in my own journey. I hope that participants in this module feel permission to “not know,” be curious, and make mistakes along their journey.