CEED, Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare launch new podcast

We’ve just launched a new podcast with colleagues at the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare. Learn more about Early Development and Child Welfare and subscribe with your favorite podcast app or listen on CASCW’s website.

Early Development and Child Welfare is a new podcast series co-created by CEED and our colleagues at the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare (CASCW). The series of 10 episodes covers a range of important aspects of child development and child welfare work. Subscribe for free with your favorite podcast app or listen on CASCW’s website.

“Infant mental health practitioners, social workers, and early childhood educators will find these podcasts useful and informative,” says Stacy Gehringer, MSW, LICSW, director of outreach at CASCW. “This content is also highly relevant for justice system workers like judges, guardians ad litem, and case managers. These child welfare professionals are asked to make recommendations for children and families, yet they may need more information on the basics of attachment or child development.”

A pair of headphones on a yellow background

The podcast format was chosen for its ability to deliver information in bite-sized segments that can be accessed while on the go. Both CASCW and CEED offer in-person and online professional development opportunities; however, the professionals who make up the podcast’s likely audience are often busy to the point of being overstretched.

“Practitioners want and need access to the latest research and best practices, but they don’t always have time to download, print, and read literature, or to sign up for an intensive course or training,” says Gehringer. “We hope that listeners can catch an episode in the car driving to or from visits with families, or perhaps listen while taking a walk.”

She adds that episodes can also be used as learning tools for child welfare units to spur discussion both within teams and with community members.

“These podcasts are a great resource for professionals who work directly with children and families, such as child care providers, educators and social workers,” says Ann Bailey, PhD, director of CEED. “They also cover core aspects of child development in a way that’s accessible for people who, perhaps, work with families only occasionally but still find they want to be better informed about the research and science of early childhood.” 

Gehringer notes that several themes resurface again and again throughout the 10 podcast episodes. These themes include building relationships and understanding the cycle of rupture and repair; describing developmental, cultural, and infant mental health lenses for use in different fields; self-assessment and critical thinking; and parallel process, a fundamental principle of reflective supervision.

“We ask parents to establish trust and foundational feelings of belonging and dignity with their children,” Gehringer explains, speaking about the concept of parallel process. “We, as child welfare workers, need to do the same with parents and families in order for them to make progress, believe we are supporting them in their parenting endeavors, and ultimately heal.” 

Frontline workers, in turn, depend on their supervisors to provide reflective spaces where workers can “process all the trauma in front of them so that they can better connect with parents and families,” says Gehringer. She points out that child welfare and social workers, as well as people who work with families and children in other contexts, experience high rates of secondary trauma, compassion fatigue, and burnout.

Early Development and Child Welfare recognizes this reality while underscoring the vital importance of this work.

“We do this work to keep families together, intact, and healthy, and to build resilience and healthy attachment,” says Gehringer. “This podcast series is really nice for regrounding people in the ‘why’ of the work.” 

Early Development and Child Welfare is supported in part by the Minnesota Department of Human Service Children and Family Services Division. An audio introduction to the series and the first episode, “Attachment and foundations of self-regulation,” are available right now. Additional episodes will be released twice a week.  

Episode titles and topics will be:

Attachment and foundations of self-regulation

Faith Eidson, LMSW, interviews Marva Lewis, PhD, to discuss the impact of early caregiving relationships on a child’s ability to self-regulate.

The effects of stress biology and toxic stress

Kristin Johnson, MSW, interviews Salam Soliman, PsyD, to discuss the effect that elevated levels of stress have on the developing brain and how child welfare workers might help mitigate stress levels through providing resources to at-risk families.

Applying a cultural lens to child welfare work

Tanika Eaves Simpson, PhD, and Amittia Parker, LMSW, MPA, PhD, explore the importance of being able to acknowledge and engage with diverse cultures in the child welfare field.

Applying a developmental lens to child welfare work

Christine Cole, LCSW, IMH-E, interviews Kristin Irrer, IMH-E, to discuss how recognizing the various developmental needs of children is crucial for child welfare workers in order to appropriately engage with youth and families

The importance and process of early childhood screening

Kate Waltour, MSW, LISW, talks with Anna Paulson, MEd, and Janell Schilman to discuss the referral and evaluation process when there are concerns about a child’s development and when screening is required through the Child Protection and Treatment Act (CAPTA). 

Embedding knowledge into practice: CEED’s Supporting Early Social and Emotional Development Credential

Faith Eidson, LMSW, interviews Kim Eckel, the founder of Footbridge for Families, about the process for obtaining SESED Credential and how the program has impacted their approach to Child Welfare

Cultural perspectives from child welfare workers: A panel

Tanika Eaves Simpson, PhD, interviews Andrea Penick, LMSW, and Cassandra Thomas, LMSW, to discuss how their unique cultural perspective(s) influence their work in child welfare.

Applying an infant mental health lens to child welfare work

Faith Eidson, LMSW, talks with Sarah Shea, PhD, about how using an Infant Mental Health (IMH) framework in Child Welfare work can benefit young children and their caregiver(s). 

Early brain development

Christine Cole, LCSW, IMH-E, and Kathleen Thomas, PhD, delve into the topic of early brain development and it’s reliance on adult interaction.

Applying a neuroscience lens to child welfare work

Kristin Johnson, MSW, interviews Daniel Berry, EdD, to explore the interactions between genetics and the environment on a child’s brain development.

TTET trainer talking points

The Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) released its new Training and Trainer Evaluation Tool (TTET) on July 1, 2021. TTET allows trainers and stakeholders to collect valuable information from training participants. DHS now has talking points for trainers to refer to when instructing trainees on using the TTET.

Download the TTET trainer talking points

Making things easy for people who work hard: a Q & A with Professional Development Coordinator Deborah Ottman

Why are adult learners different from full-time students? What makes CEED’s professional development offerings stand out? Deborah Ottman, MA, sheds light on these questions and more.

Deborah Ottman, MA, oversees CEED’s online courses and self-study modules. She shares what makes our professional development special and puts her finger on a couple of ways in which adult learners differ from traditional full-time students.

What was the educational and career path that led you to your role at CEED?

Deborah Ottman

Deborah Ottman: I earned a BA in communications with a minor in fine arts and Spanish from Cardinal Stritch University and an MA in communications from Marquette University in Milwaukee. After graduate school, I taught English as a second language to adult Spanish speakers in Miami, and discovered that I loved teaching adults. This experience led to a position with a professional development program at the University of Detroit Mercy, where I worked with professionals from all over the world. These were pre-internet times, so the cross-cultural learning that is now so easy for us to access really had to be achieved through direct experience. In my work, that meant anything from reading through McDonald’s employee handbooks with my students in Miami to taking them grocery shopping in Detroit! In both these positions, I appreciated the chance to gain insight into the immigrant experience.

After moving to Minnesota, I worked at the PACER Center, a nonprofit whose mission is to support children and young adults with disabilities as well as their families. I worked on a federally-funded project helping Title I schools engage authentically with families to support children’s academic success. I also worked with these families to support their skills in advocating for their children to help them be successful in school. Being a mom of three young boys myself, I had a particular interest in working with and on behalf of families with young children. Simultaneously, I started providing professional development for public school teachers and administrators, as well as creating large training events for parents.

I started working at CEED in 2012. My role here is an especially good fit because I’m able to bring together my experience in adult education, working with diverse populations, and event planning with my interest in early childhood.

What do you think sets apart CEED’s professional development opportunities? Why should people choose our courses, modules, or trainings?

There are several things that set us apart. First, we are housed within the Institute of Child Development, a remarkable academic department within a Research I university. Our online courses and our self-study modules present high-quality content that is grounded in evidence. Our instructors and module authors are real-world professionals working in the fields they teach. We also offer training, both in-person and online, in research-based classroom assessment tools such as the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS®), Desired Results Developmental Profile (2015), and COR Advantage. The academic rigor that we bring to adult education is really important. 

Also, CEED is cross-disciplinary. Our work is grounded in the study of infant and early childhood mental health—another way of talking about social and emotional development. This means, for example, that we look not just at children’s behaviors, but at what those behaviors may be communicating. As another example, we recognize that children don’t develop in isolation; they develop in the context of their caregiving environment and culture. So we take a “two generation” approach to working with families; our participants build skills and knowledge to support children by supporting the important adults in those children’s lives. Additionally, CEED is home to the Reflective Practice Center (RPC). Using a reflective approach helps practitioners work more effectively with children and families and even with their colleagues. With a research center devoted to reflective practice here at CEED, we naturally incorporate reflective principles into our professional development.

All photos are by Deborah Ottman

We offer all of this research-based content wrapped up in formats that are based on best practices for adult learning. Our goal is to make things easy for people who work hard all day—teachers, social workers, health care workers, administrators, and many others. These are professionals whose main job is not to be a student. Their main job is to work with children and families. 

How do working professionals’ educational needs differ from those of full-time students? 

One of the more profound starting differences is that full-time students don’t have as much autonomy in choosing what they are going to learn. One thing that we know about adult learners is that they need to know “what’s in it for me.” That’s the starting point. They need to see and feel that what they’re learning can be applied to their job. 

Another difference between a traditional student and an adult learner is that the older we get, the fuller our lives become. We have many demands on us: jobs, families, volunteer pursuits, even interests and hobbies. We can’t meet in a classroom three times a week during the middle of the day for an hour and a half. Professional development needs to be accessible and flexible. That’s where virtual learning environments provide great opportunities.

I mentioned earlier that in the pre-internet age, it was more difficult to come by cross-cultural experiences. The advent of the internet has also opened up new possibilities for professional development. You can access our online courses and modules from anywhere, at any time. I find it inspiring that we are able to meet learners where they are—both geographically and in terms of their level of knowledge and skill. 

What are some of the ways in which you’ve continued to adapt the professional development options at CEED in response to learners’ needs?

Sunflower

In 2021, we offered our annual Minnesota Early Intervention Summer Institute as a virtual event for the very first time. We were able to provide two days of intensive, innovative professional development to more than 200 early childhood practitioners from Minnesota and beyond. People who normally would not be able to travel to this event, including people from outside our region, were able to participate. Again, we’re really fortunate to be housed within the University of Minnesota, which allows us to access both the best that technology has to offer and also skilled support staff who are experts on using that technology.

Another big change to our professional development offerings is our latest addition–our self-study modules. These explore reflective topics in ways that work for people who are just beginning their reflective journey as well as for those with a more extensive background in reflective practice. I like to recommend Wondering with purpose: reflection in any setting as a starting point for people who don’t have prior knowledge of reflective practice. 

The modules take around three hours to complete, but if a participant can only spend half an hour at a time on the module, that’s okay. The modules are structured so they can pick up where they left off later. We give participants access to the module for a whole year. They can take their time, revisit content, and make sure that they get what they hoped to gain out of it. 

Going back to adult learning theory, this is a difference between adult learners and traditional students. Adults are going to choose what they want to learn. In our professional development offerings, we give them the basics of what we feel they must know so that we can say, “Yes, you’ve learned this content to a baseline level of satisfaction.” However, when professionals choose to call upon what they learned, it’s entirely up to them how they do that. 

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

I’m in a book club that has been going strong for 20 years! Right now, we’re reading The Power by Naomi Alderman, which was on President Obama’s reading list a few years back.

Butternut squash and squash blossom

I’m also a pretty big-time gardener. I have a vegetable garden, trees and shrubs, and perennial beds. This year, my shade garden is doing well with a native cardinal flower that’s a magnet for hummingbirds as well as some new coral bells and a beautiful plot of jack-in-the-pulpit. I’ve been working on incorporating plants that are native to Minnesota and don’t require a lot of extra water or other resources. These plants also sustain our native insects and birds. It’s fun to see a plant vibrating because there are so many honey bees on it. One thing I love about gardening is that it connects us to nature’s life cycle in such an elemental way. It doesn’t really matter what you’re raising or the size of the plot that you tend–gardening is an inherently hopeful activity.

The reflective colleague: tips from reflective practice for returning to in-person work

Alyssa Meuwissen, PhD, and Deborah Ottman explore ways in which reflective practice can help professionals manage stress around returning to in-person work.

By Alyssa Meuwissen, PhD, research associate; and Deborah Ottman, MA, professional development coordinator

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ways in which many of us accomplish our work have evolved. We’ve cobbled together home offices. We’ve learned to Zoom with colleagues instead of knocking on their office doors. We’ve changed our schedules to accommodate the presence of children navigating distance learning. Many people have recently returned to in-person work. Others are planning their return with one eye on the COVID-19 case count in their area. 

Like many of our colleagues in non-student-facing roles at the University of Minnesota, CEED staff are in the process of transitioning back to the office. At the same time, we’ve been hearing from friends and colleagues about their experiences with this shift. Some are excited, while others are apprehensive. Still others feel excited one minute, and apprehensive the next.

Hearing these different perspectives prompted us to think about principles of reflective practice that could be of use in this moment of transition. Reflective practice is often recommended for educators and other professionals who work with children and families. However, we’d venture that anyone who regularly interacts with other human beings could benefit from reflective techniques. 

What would it look like to be a reflective colleague in this moment? How might one put reflective principles to work in a typical office environment? As we pondered these questions together, three major themes surfaced: ambiguity, perspective-taking, and power dynamics. We’ve loosely organized our reflective tips to align with these themes. As you’ll see, they’re interrelated.

A wall mirror reflecting part of a houseplant

Ambiguity

Do you look forward to returning to in-person work? If you’ve already done so, do you ever wish you were still working from home? The answer to questions like these may be murkier than a simple “yes” or “no.” Returning to the office is a big change if you’ve become accustomed to working remotely. For well over a year, we were discouraged from contact with people outside our household. Our mental alarm bells rang if other people came within six feet of us. 

It can be hard to shake off that conditioning. Some people may crave in-person interactions, but for others, these interactions can be anxiety-provoking or even activate our threat response. Different people will react differently, and our own attitudes may shift over time.

Reflective practice can help us by teaching us to hold the ambiguity of our response. Acknowledge that there are pluses and minuses to in-person work. Avoid assigning judgment to your emotions, whether they are positive, negative, or mixed. Feelings are not “right” or “wrong.” It is also okay if your feelings change from day to day and even hour to hour.

If you start to feel overwhelmed or reactive at the office, we suggest physically removing yourself from the room, if possible. It can be helpful to take a five-minute walk, do some deep breathing, or look out a window at something that makes you feel anchored to the wider world, like trees or the sky. 

It can also help to identify your hot buttons. Dirty dishes left in the break room sink? A loud water cooler conversation near your workspace? Try naming your feelings: “When I see a mess in the sink, I feel stressed. When coworkers don’t respect my need for quiet thinking time, I feel frustrated.”

What if you notice that a colleague seems stressed? Offer to take a break with them and leave the space if possible. If you decide to talk with them about your observations, leave room for them to respond in a way that’s comfortable for them. Avoid confrontational statements like “You look nervous,” or “You seem stressed.” Instead, try an opener like, “I wonder how you felt about that meeting.” Be open to input and curious about your colleague’s response. 

It’s important to recognize in these conversations that we won’t always like or agree with what we hear. We may feel defensive or take it personally when a colleague shares concerns—even if their concerns have nothing to do with us. This is human nature; there’s no need to blame ourselves for our reactions. At the same time, a reflective colleague works to accept others’ emotions without judgment as well. 

Perspective-taking

Our dependence on Zoom meetings during the pandemic afforded many of us glimpses of our coworkers’ home lives–of their children and pets, their coffee tables and back yards. We learned that the lives our colleagues lead outside of work are very different from our own. Each of us has different responsibilities and a different set of claims on our time and attention. We think it’s possible that this insight into the diversity of our experiences will have a positive effect on work environments. We may be less judgmental and more apt to assign best intentions to the people with whom we work.

It might seem obvious that other people’s perspectives differ from our own. However, we’re all capable of forgetting from time to time that we don’t all think alike (or work alike). The reflective approach is to notice these differences with curiosity. How might this look in practice? As an example, say you notice that a colleague frequently leaves work early. Rather than let suspicion or resentment take hold, wonder about your colleague with curiosity. Why might your colleague need to leave work early? They might be picking up a child from school or child care. Perhaps they’re going to a standing therapy appointment. Maybe they’re avoiding rush hour traffic and will put in an hour of work later at home to make up the time. You may never know the answer, but you can assign best intentions, trusting that there’s a good reason for what you’ve observed.

Human beings are uncomfortable with not knowing. We tend to fill in an incomplete picture with guesses. What’s important is to avoid the trap of thinking that your guess must be right. A phrase that resonates with us is: “The story that I’m telling myself about what I’m seeing is…” This framing reminds us that when we speculate about other people’s thoughts, feelings, and motivations, our guesses may or may not be anywhere close to true. As reflective colleagues, we can learn to sit with an incomplete picture. We can accept that we don’t know, as much as we might want to.

Power dynamics

There’s little doubt that your work experience is partly shaped by power dynamics. Workplaces often have a hierarchical structure; power is unevenly distributed across different roles and teams. Gender, race, age, socioeconomic status, experience, and other factors also influence the way in which power dynamics play out within a workplace. Where on the spectrum, from most to least powerful, are you? How do you feel about your position? And how might you best use your position to be effective in your job? 

For people on the powerful end of the spectrum, the tips we shared about ambiguity and perspective taking may be especially useful. We touched on avoiding the trap of thinking, “Because I’ve been able to make a guess, my guess must be right.” Here’s a corollary to that belief: “I must be right, and that means you are wrong.” Avoiding such pitfalls is especially important if you are in a powerful position at work, because your decisions have great weight. Approach your colleagues and employees with curiosity and empathy, recognizing that their circumstances, opinions, and emotions will differ from yours. How might you make space for the voices that might not always be heard in your workplace? 

If you are on the less-powerful end of the spectrum at work, think about aspects of your day where you do have control. Some people who worked from home over the past year gained autonomy—the power to make decisions about their day. They might have enjoyed choosing to spend their lunch hour folding laundry rather than eating in the break room, for example. Returning to the office could mean giving up some autonomy. If that’s the case for you, try to identify areas where you can be intentional. Maybe you can decorate your workspace and make it your own. Maybe you can read a book or fit in a workout over your lunch hour. If you’ve found that you do your best thinking while active, suggest to a colleague that you go for a walking meeting. Advocate for yourself, and exercise the options you have to make your job work well for you.

Conclusion

Not everyone is “going back” to work, of course. Many people never left; people in early childhood education, service industries, health care, and manufacturing, for example, don’t have the option to work from home. Others can’t go back; they must continue to work from home because of health conditions that make them or their family members vulnerable. 

We acknowledge that people’s experiences of this pandemic vary enormously both at home and at work, not just within the United States, but across the globe. With that being said, we believe that a reflective approach can work well in different professional environments—whether in a Zoom meeting or a conference room, in a classroom or on the shop floor.

Interested in learning more about reflective practice? Our self-study modules look at different facets of reflective practice. The module Wondering with Purpose: Reflection in Any Setting would be a great place to start. For those who already have some experience with reflective practice, we’d suggest exploring our online courses RIOS 1: Using the RIOS Framework for Reflective Supervision and RIOS 2: Advanced Reflective Supervision Using the RIOS Framework.

Creating with data: a Q & A with Research Professional Meredith Reese

Research Professional Meredith Reese gives a behind-the-scenes look at several of CEED’s major projects. She shares why creating art is more closely related to doing research than we might think.

Meredith Reese is a research professional whose work touches on many of the aspects of CEED’s work, from data collection and analysis to designing and providing professional development. In this Q & A, she gives a behind-the-scenes look at several of CEED’s major projects. Reese also discusses why creating art is more closely related to doing research than we might think, and she shares a selection of her visual art creations.

What was the educational and career path that brought you to your role as a research professional at CEED?

Meredith Reese

Meredith Reese: I went to college at the University of Rochester in New York, where I majored in psychology. While in college, I worked at Mount Hope Family Center for several semesters. Mount Hope is associated with the University of Rochester, but it has ties to the University of Minnesota as well. Melissa Koenig, PhD, professor of developmental psychology, and Dante Cicchetti, PhD, McKnight Presidential Endowed Chair, were Principal Investigators on one of the projects I worked on while at Mount Hope Family Center. They are both professors in the Institute of Child Development here at UMN. I became aware of the University of Minnesota’s reach and research through my work at Mount Hope, so after completing a research internship in Germany, I came back to Minnesota (where I grew up) and got connected with Koenig’s lab. 

Prior to joining CEED in September 2019, I worked directly with children conducting early literacy assessments in preschools for the Department of Educational Psychology. I also ran studies in Koenig’s Early Language and Experience Lab. My current job is further removed from interacting with children, but I get the opportunity to work with community partners and the results of research: the data and organizations that influence policy and practice. I enjoy working directly with children, but I also like being more involved in interpreting, visualizing, and communicating the results of research.

You work on a variety of initiatives and projects at CEED. Can you talk a little about some of the major projects you are involved in? 

One large piece of my job is managing projects like our self-study modules. Overall, however, I’d say that much of my work involves collecting, organizing, and analyzing data for different projects. I work closely with Research Associate Alyssa Meuwissen, PhD, and Director Ann Bailey, PhD, on developing survey questions and other data collection materials. I also implement surveys and conduct interviews. 

As an example, a major ongoing project that I’m involved in is evaluation work for the Center for Inclusive Childcare (CICC). The CICC brought CEED on to evaluate their coaching programs for child care providers. Providers can receive coaching in the areas of inclusion, infant-toddler, and health and safety. This is CICC’s fourth year providing coaching, and I have been involved in the evaluation for almost two years. As part of the evaluation process, we send out surveys and conduct interviews with the coaches employed by CICC. We do the same with the child care providers whom they serve so that we can get a balanced picture of how the program is operating and where there may be a need for modifications. 

What has stood out to you in your conversations with coaches and providers?

Analyzing and summarizing interviews is one of my favorite parts of the evaluation process, as well as one of the most challenging parts. Interviewees share such rich information and perspectives in these conversations. I enjoy identifying themes in what respondents express. I also feel a huge sense of responsibility in reviewing this qualitative data. I want to make sure to accurately communicate the nuances of participants’ experiences.

I’m often amazed at how many child care providers mention the same things about their experience receiving coaching. I often think, “This is like deja vu–someone else just said that!” One theme that is consistent across these interviews is the importance of a provider’s relationship with their coach. Providers may feel isolated in their role. That is especially the case for in-home providers who may not have anyone to bounce ideas off of or check in with. 

Coaches fill a role that is similar to that of a reflective supervisor or consultant. When they meet with coaches, practitioners get the chance to process their experiences in a safe and supportive setting. Coaches also provide a fresh perspective. I enjoy discovering these tie-ins that link a project like CICC to aspects of reflective practice and infant mental health. I like being involved in different projects and seeing those overlapping components. 

Can you talk about the process of developing CEED’s self-study modules?

I worked closely with Deborah Ottman, professional development coordinator, and Karen Anderson, program/project specialist, on developing the nine initial self-study modules. We are also working on developing additional modules. Deb is the content expert; she identifies a need that exists in the field and invites a content expert or experts to author a self-study module on that topic. She ensures that the modules have the right focus for the field. My role is more on the project management side of things. I coordinate with module authors and reviewers, from arranging their contracts and payment to organizing and revising their submitted materials and resources so that Karen can upload them into the Canvas learning platform.

Peach collage made from torn magazine paper
Peach collage created by Meredith Reese

Our module authors are recognized experts on a given topic. I really enjoy working with the module authors and developing relationships with them. This was a unique aspect of this project for me, because previously I had always worked with small internal teams, and my work did not not involve much interaction with people in the field. I feel so fortunate to get to work directly with content experts and learn from them through our conversations and the process of reviewing their modules. I enjoy creating an outlet for their experience and knowledge to be accessible to a wider audience via the self-study modules.

What will be your role in the Trainers And RBPD Specialists Support (TARSS) project, which will be newly housed at CEED?

Pear collage made from torn magazine photos
Pear collage created by Meredith Reese

CEED will be working with the Minnesota Department of Human Services to provide support for trainers and coaches. My role in this exciting project will include the development of evaluation surveys and interview protocols, data analysis, report writing, and infographic development. I’m also looking forward to working with Karen to learn about building online courses, because we will be transferring course content to Canvas.

What do you like to do in your spare time–assuming that you have any spare time!

I love scrapbooking, painting, drawing–anything that provides an opportunity to get creative and try something new. I find it relaxing and rewarding to explore a new medium and ultimately to have a finished product to look back at and know you created something. During the pandemic, I managed to get my family to try out a lot of artistic pursuits with me. We painted, collaged, and did embroidery. It pretty much felt like summer camp! 

Zentangle drawing of a ram
Ram zentangle created by Meredith Reese

I actually see a lot of parallels between these creative endeavors and my enjoyment of evaluation and research projects. In my work at CEED, I have a lot of fun experimenting with new methods of data visualization. I love being able to apply my creativity and love of design to present data in a way that is more intuitive and usable for different audiences. More broadly, I enjoy the process of designing research and evaluation data collection measures and then integrating data from these different sources to answer specific questions.

An update from our director

Ann Bailey, PhD, director of CEED, shares an update on our work.

Dear CEED Community,

Ann Bailey

Summer is in full swing, and many people are taking advantage of the season for vacationing, getting out on the water, or just lying in a hammock with a cool beverage. Here at CEED, however, we often find ourselves just as busy during the summer months as the people we serve: the early childhood professional workforce. I wanted to share an update on our recent activities as well as a look at a major new project.

In June, we hosted over 200 early childhood professionals at our first-ever online Minnesota Early Intervention Summer Institute. The Summer Institute is an annual professional development event that provides high-quality, evidence-based content to early childhood educators, early childhood special educators, and related services personnel across Minnesota. CEED’s Deborah Ottman and Karen Anderson develop, organize, and implement the event. This year, CEED personnel—Kristina Erstad-Sankey; Anne Larson, PhD; Margie Milenova, PhD; and myself—presented two out of the five tracks offered. We were delighted to be able to host our early childhood colleagues after the 2020 Summer Institute had to be cancelled due to COVID-19. We very much hope you will join us next year. 2022 will be the 40th anniversary of the very first Summer Institute!

Additionally, CEED is very pleased to announce that we received a grant from the Minnesota Department of Human Services to implement a statewide system that supports child care trainers and relationship-based professional development (RBPD) specialists. This project, known as TARSS, will significantly add to our work and our mission of “Integrating the science of early development to enhance the work of professionals through evidence-based research, program quality, reflective practice, and professional development.” Read more about TARSS here. Coaches, trainers, and RBPD specialists can get in touch with us directly for assistance with their professional development needs.

As we anticipate getting back to our St. Paul campus offices in early August, we are also thinking about our colleagues throughout the University of Minnesota system and in the early childhood sector during these times of transition. We look forward to continuing to help practitioners and programs achieve the best outcomes for children and to seeing you in person once again. If you would like to learn more about CEED and our work, please feel free to reach out to me, or take a look at the opportunities that are available on our website.

With my best wishes for a healthy summer,

Ann Bailey, PhD
Director, CEED

CEED to provide professional development for trainers and coaches through State of Minnesota grant

CEED will be the new home of the Trainers and RBPD Specialists Support (TARSS) program through the State of Minnesota.

Trainers and RBPD specialists can access TARSS support from CEED staff by emailing tarss@umn.edu or calling 612-624-5708. Hours of operation are 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday; we will respond to calls and emails within one business day.

CEED is pleased to announce a new partnership with the Child Care Services Division of the Minnesota Department of Human Services. CEED was awarded a contract to provide support for trainers and relationship-based professional development (RBPD) specialists who work with child care providers throughout the state of Minnesota. Through the Trainer And RBPD Specialist Support (TARSS) program, CEED will support the needs of trainers and RBPD specialists throughout the state by continuing to implement what is already working well within the current training and mentoring system, bringing innovative and culturally-responsive ideas to enhance this system, and evaluating the process and impact of these activities to inform future programmatic decisions.

Learn about the 2021 RBPD Fall Retreat and register!

Two smiling adults converse while sitting on a sofa in a preschool classroom

“We’re excited to be able to build upon the existing system and enhance support for child care trainers and RBPD specialists through the TARSS program,” said Ann Bailey, PhD, director of CEED. “We know that early childhood is a critical time in human development. Educators of young children are doing extremely important work and need more support. This support must include access to high-quality, usable content; training; coaching; and mentoring that leads to improved outcomes for young children. We look forward to drawing upon CEED’s 45 years of research and practical experience to maintain a highly-qualified and diverse support system for all trainers and RBPD specialists.”

The TARSS program is grounded in best practice for early childhood trainers and RBPD specialists. Research shows that these two related yet distinct disciplines have a meaningful impact on early childhood educators. Professional development opportunities for trainers and RBPD specialists will span a variety of formats, such as in-person and online events, along with opportunities for ongoing coaching and mentoring. The TARSS team aims to use innovative technologies to build communities which support peer learning. These technologies will also make coaching and mentoring services more accessible and customized for each professional’s schedule.

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Reflecting on complexity: Q & A with module author Tracy Schreifels

Tracy Schreifels, MS, LMFT, IMH-E® (IV), shares insights from developing the self-study module The Plot Thickens: Reflective Supervision for Groups.

Tracy Schreifels

Tracy Schreifels, MS, LMFT, IMH-E® (IV), is a therapist, reflective consultant, and executive director of Ellison Center, a non-profit early childhood mental health agency in the St. Cloud area. Schreifels teaches in the marriage and family therapy program at St. Cloud State University and is the co-chair of the Advisory Board for the Minnesota Association for Children’s Mental Health – Infant and Early Childhood Division. In addition to teaching CEED online courses, Schreifels authored two of CEED’s self-study modules: A Guide for the Guide: The “How” of Reflective Supervision and The Plot Thickens: Reflective Supervision for Groups. In this Q & A, she discusses The Plot Thickens.

Who do you see as the audience or audiences for this module? Who do you think would benefit from enrolling in it?

Tracy Schreifels: This module is designed for professionals who are preparing to lead group reflective supervision sessions either as consultants or supervisors. In order to provide reflective supervision, professionals should have a solid foundational understanding of the principles of infant and early childhood mental health (IECMH). They themselves should also be receiving ongoing reflective supervision. 

This module would also work well for those who are looking to expand their skills. I would recommend it to professionals who have been providing individual reflective supervision and wish to add group offerings. I’d also recommend it to those who are looking for some new tools or ideas to try out when providing reflective supervision in this format.

Could you share some of the reflections or realizations you had while building the content for this module?

I always enjoy getting back into the literature around the dynamic and growing field of IECMH. As I explored the content and topics for this module, I found myself reflecting on my methods for starting reflective supervision with the groups I provide it to. Creating this module helped me be more intentional and aware of why I operate the way I do. 

Putting together the module was also an opportunity to to reflect on how I learned to provide group reflective supervision and how much the field has changed since then. When I was being mentored on providing reflective supervision, there wasn’t much research on the topic that we could use to guide the process. It’s amazing how much the field has grown in the past 10 years! In addition, I found that the group formation process can be informed by evidence from the field of parent education. It’s astounding to me how all kinds of disciplines are needed to support this important work!

What drew you to the work of reflective practice and reflective supervision?

I was drawn into this field by amazing mentors. I have always had a passion for working with young children, and that guided me to get a degree in child and family studies. With that educational background, I worked as a preschool teacher as well as with caregivers and children. Along the way, the agency I was working for as a teacher brought in a reflective consultant to support us in our work. I looked forward to our monthly sessions, but when the grant funding ended, so did our reflective practice. I decided to go back to school to earn my master’s degree in marriage and family therapy, and I knew that I would specialize in IECMH.

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

First, I want students to be able to hold in mind the differences and similarities associated with group and individual reflective supervision. While the same foundation is used for both, the execution can be very different. Being able to process those similarities and differences can help us be more intentional in our approaches and better able to hold the perspectives of reflective supervision participants.

Second, reflecting on reflecting is essential. That is something I hope students take away from this module. I want students to consider the impact of group development. This field is founded on developmental principles, and those principles can inform group reflective supervision as well.

Third, I hope that students feel a sense of confidence after completing this module, so that they can step in to address concerns that arise in the group delivery model of reflective supervision. Holding in mind each participant, the group dynamics, and the work they are reflecting on is complex. This module was designed to help practitioners reflect on those complexities.

Are there any additional thoughts you would like to share?

We are never done learning. Professionals need the supportive relationships that develop in reflective supervision to support them and the children and families they work with as well. I hope that participants enjoy the content and allow themselves to reflect and process as they work through it.

Q & A with Program Quality Specialist Margarita Milenova, PhD

Margarita Milenova, PhD, trains educators in the use of different assessment tools. In this Q & A, she offers insights into the benefits of authentic assessment.

Margarita Milenova, PhD, joined CEED as a program quality specialist in 2013. She works on early childhood program quality projects and trains early childhood professionals on the Desired Results Developmental Profile© (DRDP [2015]) and the COR Advantage® assessment tools. Milenova has special expertise in authentic assessment. In this Q & A, she talks about the advantages of different assessment tools and offers tips for early childhood professionals to use them effectively.

Margarita Milenova

How did you become interested in early childhood education?

Margarita Milenova: My interest in learning about young children was sparked during my senior year in high school in Bulgaria when I enrolled in the prep program for assistant teachers. This was a year-round program that focused on early childhood education and psychology, combining academic classes with an extended practicum in child care centers. 

This experience motivated me to continue my journey at Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski, where I earned a master’s degree and a doctoral degree in early childhood education with a minor in special education. I was still curious to learn more and wanted to give back to the field, so I accepted a faculty position at the Department of Preschool and Elementary Education at Sofia University. After moving to the US, I had the opportunity to work as an early childhood teacher, as well as a director and teacher at the Bulgarian School in Minnesota supporting bilingual children and their families. These experiences across cultures were evidence of the fundamental importance of high-quality early childhood education.

Your work involves training early childhood educators to use the DRDP (2015)and COR Advantage® assessment tools. Can you describe how these tools work?

Authentic formative assessments help educators determine where each child is developmentally, so they can plan enriching learning opportunities for children, make changes in the physical environment, and provide the necessary support. Assessments like the DRDP (2015) and COR Advantage® provide a great way to communicate with families about children’s development and can also be used for accountability purposes. 

The assessment tools that I train educators to use are both reliable and valid authentic assessments. They look at all the important areas of child development. The assessments unfold as cycles of observation, documentation of behaviors and skills, reflection on the collected data, planning, and implementing. These steps are performed by caregivers who are familiar with the children. They’re performed in natural settings while children play and interact with peers or explore independently. These are the hallmarks of “authentic” assessments. It’s important to highlight that these are not test-like assessments where children are invited to do specific tasks or choose the correct answer.

What advice on using assessment tools such as the DRDP (2015) and the COR Advantage® do you have for early childhood professionals?

One important piece of information for Minnesota-based caregivers is that DRDP (2015) and COR Advantage® are on the list of approved assessments for Parent Aware, which is Minnesota’s voluntary quality rating and improvement system for early childhood programs. Both assessments may also be used by participants in the Kindergarten Entry Profile Initiative, which is a voluntary program offered by the Minnesota Department of Education. Another advantage of these assessments is that they are strengths-based and grounded in research. That means the focus is on what children can do, not on what they cannot do. I also like to emphasize that valid authentic assessments can yield very useful information. When programs use them as intended, teachers and caregivers can collect data that will help them make well-informed decisions about supporting children.

Sometimes it might look overwhelming to do all the different steps that authentic assessments call for (i.e., observe in various settings, write notes, snap photos, take videos, fill in forms and records, etc.). Working on it as a team with other caregivers can help make it more manageable. In fact, it’s actually preferable to have those observations in different settings—at the playground, at the sand table, in the dramatic play area, etc.—so you can be confident that a child is at a particular developmental level. 

Another tip is using technology to store and organize data collected through observation. There are some free apps available to make this easier for teachers. For instance, the DRDP Portfolio app and the Teaching Strategies® GOLD® app allow educators to save and quickly review the evidence they have collected. They can determine where a child is developmentally and share data with teachers and administrators, special education teachers, and families, all within these apps.

As someone who speaks more than one language, what are your thoughts about assessment for children who are bilingual or speak a different language at home from the one that is spoken in their early childhood program?

I believe that early childhood educators are very important partners for parents when we think about language development and how to support young children. When educators take the time to find out what language is spoken in the child’s home, it can really make a difference in relationship-building and instructional strategies. A child speaking a language other than English at home sometimes might appear to be falling behind their monolingual peers. In reality, however, this child might be able to fully participate in pretend play, with elaborate exchanges with a friend speaking Bulgarian or Tagalog, for instance. It’s important to have an open mind and avoid the assumption that having trouble expressing oneself in English equates to a lack of knowledge or understanding of concepts. 

Authentic assessments can help educators take a holistic look at a child’s language development. As just one example, DRDP (2015) has a set of four English language development measures. These measures look at how a child is progressing in English. Crucially, however, each of these measures also takes into account the child’s development in their home language. The rest of the DRDP (2015) assessment can be completed based on a child’s use of their home language or based on alternative ways of communicating. 

No matter which assessment tool an educator is using, it can be really helpful to work with an interpreter, a cultural liaison, and a child’s parents when assessing multilingual children. They can help educators gain a better understanding of where the child is developmentally. It is not always easy to find interpreters and cultural liaisons, but connecting with cultural institutions representing different communities can be an option.

What do you like to do in your free time?

Living in Minnesota has given me plenty of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors at a level that is new for me! I enjoy paddle boarding in the summer and cross-country skiing during the snowy months.

“This work is hard, and it should be”: Q & A with Mindy Kronenberg

Experiencing strong emotions while working with families can mean that infant mental health practitioners are making effective connections. Mindy Kronenberg, PhD, IMH-E®, explains how reflective practice can help professionals manage stress while remaining effective.

Mindy Kronenberg

Mindy Kronenberg, PhD, IMH-E®, is a clinical psychologist who specializes in infant mental health and the assessment and treatment of trauma across the lifespan. Kronenberg has worked in settings such as state agencies, schools, Head Start programs, dependency courts, and child welfare agencies. In this Q & A, Kronenberg talks about how she developed the self-study module Holding the Baby in Mind—When We Are Dysregulated Ourselves.

Who do you see as the audience of your module?

Mindy Kronenberg: This module is aimed at people who work with infants and young children and their families. The concept of “holding the baby in mind,” or keeping the baby or child’s perspective in mind when working with a family, is central to infant mental health (IMH) work. However, our capacity to hold the baby in mind is affected by our own stress. This module addresses an issue that is at the heart of infant mental health, leaning into the often painful emotions of the families with whom we work. Holding the baby in mind while self-regulating remains challenging for IMH practitioners regardless of the stage of their career. That’s why this module is relevant for practitioners at any point in their career.

My guess is that not all of the videos and articles I’ve chosen for the module will be brand-new to all participants. However, I’ve organized the module in a way that I hope will stimulate new ways of thinking about the content. 

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

The first takeaway is that this work is hard, and it should be. The fact that we feel challenged and sometimes experience strong emotions can mean that we are fully connecting with a family. Making this connection is part of what leads to effective work.

Second, IMH work requires a strong foundation of knowledge as well as a learning mindset. In order to focus on relationships, hold the baby in mind, and be fully present with a family, we need to master core IMH competencies. I hope that this module helps practitioners consider how they can hold the baby in mind when they are dysregulated. I also hope that the ideas presented here stimulate their curiosity to seek more information.

The final takeaway is that we cannot do this work alone. We all need good reflective supervision or consultation. This type of reflective practice is not only beneficial to us, but it is beneficial to the families we serve.

Are there additional thoughts you would like to share?

While this is a self-study course, the module will be most beneficial if practitioners complete it together. We often think of the importance of regulation, learning, and exploration within relationships for infants, but the importance of relationships does not end with infancy. My hope is that, just like all IMH work, participants are able to complete this module in the context of relationships.

I’ve enjoyed putting this module together, and I hope you enjoy it as well!