Parent Aware and the CLASS®

The Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS®) is a tool that assesses classroom quality. In this video, learn how the CLASS® works and how it is used in Parent Aware classroom observations.

Did you catch Alyssa Meuwissen on KSTP?

Alyssa Meuwissen, PhD, appeared on Minnesota Live, where she shared insights into the pandemic’s impact on children’s social-emotional skills.

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.

Our top 10 blog posts of 2021

Did you read all of our most popular blog posts this year? Find out and catch up on what you missed!

Did you miss any of this year’s most popular posts the first time around? Make yourself a cup of hot cocoa, get cozy with a favorite blanket, and catch up on our most-read articles! 

The number 2021 spelled out in yellow sparkles

#1: Parenting in a pandemic is hard; self- determination theory helps us understand why

#2: A three-part series: 

#3: CEED to provide professional development for trainers and coaches through state of MN grant 

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

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

#6: Honoring the “unique cultural diamond” in each of us: Q & A with Barbara Stroud 

#7: Mind the gap: watching Mr Rogers’ Neighborhood as experiential learning 

#8: Alyssa Meuwissen and colleagues awarded multiyear grant for new reflective supervision study 

#9: “There is always room to grow and learn as a supervisor”: Q & A with Una Majmudar

#10: Thinking through “how” and “why” when beginning reflective supervision: Q & A with Tracy Schreifels 

To all our readers and colleagues in the early childhood sector, we are grateful for you and your vital work. We hope 2022 brings you joy and fulfillment!

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

TARSS RBPD Specialist Rowie Lund discusses her career journey, her new role at CEED, and the importance of investing in early childhood education.

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

Learn about our latest self-study module, A Trail Guide for Your Journey: Receiving Reflective Supervision, in this Q & A with module author Tanika Eaves, PhD, LCSW, IMH-E. Eaves shares her thoughts on the process of developing the module. She also reflects on the continuities in her career, in which she has served the needs of young children and families first as a social worker and now as a faculty member and researcher.

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.

New self-study module on receiving reflective supervision

Our latest self-study module–A Trail Guide for Your Journey: Receiving Reflective Supervision–will help practitioners and decision makers take full advantage of a reflective supervision program.

We’ve added a 10th self-study module to our roster: A Trail Guide for Your Journey: Receiving Reflective Supervision. Like all of our self-study modules, A Trail Guide for Your Journey presents research-based content about reflective supervision. It is suitable for professionals in public-facing fields such as early childhood, mental health, health care, and social work. This module would also be of value to decision-makers who want to learn more about the benefits of reflective supervision and how best to implement a relationship-based professional development program for their team.

A Trail Guide for Your Journey covers the fundamentals of reflective supervision, outlining its purpose and benefits and detailing how both supervisors and supervisees can develop reflective skills. (For a brief introduction to reflective supervision, please see our free e-book, Reflective Supervision/Consultation: Preventing Burnout, Boosting Effectiveness, and Renewing Purpose for Frontline Workers.) The module explores ways in which people receiving reflective supervision can make the most of it by adopting a reflective stance. It also discusses strategies that practitioners can use on their own if they do not have access to reflective supervision.

Tanika Eaves Simpson, PhD, LCSW, IMH-E™, assistant professor of social work at Fairfield University, created our latest module. Eaves’ professional and academic background includes expertise in infant and early childhood mental health, early intervention, and public policy. 

“We’re thrilled to offer this new module, which will help both frontline practitioners and administrators take full advantage of reflective principles and reflective supervision,” says Deborah Ottman, professional development coordinator. “Our self-study modules are self-contained, virtual learning experiences that take a few hours to complete. They’re designed for busy professionals who want easy access to the trustworthy, evidence-based content they expect from the University of Minnesota.”

November is a great time to explore A Trail Guide for Your Journey, as well as our nine other options, because we are offering a $10 promotional discount on registration through the end of the month.

Take $10 off any self-study module throughout November

We’re offering $10 off your registration for any of our self-study modules throughout November. Register for one, two, or all nine!

We’re offering a $10 discount on your registration for any of our reflective practice self-study modules throughout the month of November! Explore our modules and register for one, two, or all nine right here.

A puddle reflecting the sky, tree branches and a person whose boots are seen at the bottom of the photo

What is reflective practice? 

Reflective practice is an approach to working with people that emphasizes paying attention to emotions, differing perspectives, and relationships. Widely used in the infant and early childhood mental health field, reflective practice is appropriate for use in any helping profession, such as education, health care, social work, and mental health.

What are self-study modules?

Our self-study modules are online professional development experiences. Authored by professionals in the field, they include resources such as readings, videos, and reflection exercises that can be completed at your own pace. Each module takes approximately three hours to complete, and you can start and stop as needed. 

Can I apply the discount to more than one module?

Yes! Register for as many modules as you like. You retain access to modules for one year from the date of registration, so you can complete them later or return to them for a refresher.

Empowering those who support educators: a Q & A with Hannah Riddle de Rojas

Hannah Riddle de Rojas shares what she’s looking forward to in her new role as TARSS Project Manager as well as her reflections on the importance of early childhood.

In our latest staff Q & A, Hannah Riddle de Rojas, TARSS Project Manager, shares her goals for the Trainer and RBPD Specialist Support (TARSS) program and her reflections on the importance of early childhood.

Hannah Riddle de Rojas

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

I’ve worked in the early childhood arena for about a decade. I’ve held a variety of positions including educator, center director, trainer, and adjunct faculty. I joined CEED in 2019 as part of the Early Childhood Program Quality team, conducting Parent Aware classroom observations using the CLASS® tool. At that time, I was a newly minted mom transitioning out of an operations role at SolBe Learning, an early childhood program that I co-founded in Boston, MA. 

You recently took on a new position at CEED with the TARSS program. Can you talk a bit about your role as TARSS Project Manager.

I’m thrilled to be in the position to serve the trainer and relationship-based professional development (RBPD) community. I’ve been a trainer for the past seven years. I train in English and Spanish and have conducted trainings in most parts of the state. I believe that I can bring insight into this work that can strengthen the offerings of the TARSS program. 

My role includes providing support to trainers and RBPD specialists who reach out to us via phone or email. Because this project is new at CEED, we are currently creating systems to support the workflow, especially as more team members join us. This means that I also do a lot of organizing and strategizing around what we need to accomplish in the next weeks, months, and years.

What is the difference between the work of trainers and the work of RBPD specialists?

Trainers offer classes to early education professionals on a variety of topics that are outlined in Minnesota’s Knowledge and Competency Framework. These classes serve to give educators new information, teach new skills, and help meet licensing and other requirements. RBPD specialists are coaches and mentors who have sustained relationships with educators. Through coaching and mentoring sessions, RBPD specialists support educators in reflecting on their teaching practice as well as identifying their strengths and opportunities for growth. CEED has expertise in providing training and RBPD support, so our team understands what both roles entail. In addition, CEED has evaluation expertise which can help guide the direction and development of supports to the field.

Trainers and RBPD specialists have a uniquely powerful role in the field of early education. Many early educators come into the field with little formal preparation for the complicated work that they do. Trainers and RBPD specialists are often able to introduce insights and knowledge that empower educators and facilitate their growth. My dream is that the TARSS program aids trainers and RBPD specialists in claiming that power and seeing their impact. 

What do you wish more people knew about early childhood? 

I wish more people were well-informed about the society-wide benefits of collectively investing in our children. There is magic that happens when children are in truly high-quality environments—and the benefits of those early experiences ripple through society. So often, I feel that our national conversation misses or minimizes the importance of the early years. Despite that, research in the fields of both neuroscience and economics supports the idea that there is no better time than early childhood to invest resources in a human being.

Did becoming a parent change your perception of the early childhood field? 

Becoming a parent hasn’t shifted my perception of the field. Instead, it has helped me to better empathize with the issues that face families—for example, finding affordable child care or navigating the differences between how we raise our children and the expectations of child care programs. 

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

I spend a lot of time with my little one, Bruno. I also love to bake. I make tequeños (a Venezuelan snack) and some type of dessert weekly. It could be chocolate chip cookies, banana muffins, brownies, cheesecake, or tiramisu—YUM!

Alyssa Meuwissen and colleagues awarded multiyear grant for new reflective supervision study

Alyssa Meuwissen, PhD, and colleagues will study the effectiveness of a reflective consultation-plus-training program for child welfare workers.

Alyssa Meuwissen

Research Associate Alyssa Meuwissen, PhD, is part of a team that won a multiyear grant from the Sauer Foundation. Meuwissen will lead a study to evaluate the impact of a reflective consultation-plus-training model of professional development on child welfare workers. She is working closely with Kristin Johnson, LGSW, IMH-E® Infant Family Specialist, of KayJay Consulting, LLC, and Jessica Hoeper, LISW, IMH-E® Infant Family Specialist, of Ray of Hope, LLC, to design and implement the project.

Reflective supervision, also known as reflective consultation, is a mode of relationship-based professional development. It is widely used in the field of infant and early childhood mental health, where research has shown it can help prevent burnout and improve workers’ effectiveness. Child welfare workers are also at great risk of experiencing secondary trauma and burnout. The Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare conducted a 2016 Child Welfare Workforce Stabilization Survey of child welfare professionals in Minnesota and found that 83% of respondents had experienced secondary traumatic stress. The survey also revealed that 53% of respondents had actively sought employment outside of their current position within the previous year, and 22% intended to do so within the following year. In addition to being costly for agencies, high workforce turnover affects outcomes for families and children.

Meuwissen’s new study will explore how child welfare professionals—and as a result, the people with whom they work—can best reap the benefits of reflective supervision. This work builds on a previous study done by Meuwissen and her colleague Mary Harrison, PhD, LICSW, IMH-E®. While a few child welfare agencies in Minnesota have implemented reflective consultation (several of them working with Teya Dahle, MSW, LICSW, IMH-E®, who is also consulting on this project), the practice has not become widespread.

Reflective supervision consists of regular meetings between a trained supervisor or outside consultant and a supervisee or group of supervisees. Conversations in these sessions focus on supervisees’ emotions and perspectives. They explore supervisees’ relationships with the people whom they serve and with colleagues. These conversations also take into account the viewpoints and relationships of the adults and children with whom supervisees work. Reflective supervision sessions emphasize building on strengths and managing challenges. The sessions are a safe place for frontline workers to process the distressing emotions that arise in their work.

For this study, the project team will work with the staff of a county social service agency in Minnesota. Johnson and Hoeper will provide reflective consultation to both the agency’s supervisors and its child protection workers. Training on topics related to mindfulness, coping, and stress will also be integrated into the reflective consultation model.

“There are really two parts to implementing the reflective supervision program at this agency,” explains Meuwissen. “The first part is to build a culture of awareness and support of reflective supervision. To do so, we’ll provide evidence-based training about the effectiveness of reflective supervision.”

In this way, people at all levels of the agency will understand the value of reflective consultation, increasing organization-wide support for this model of professional development.

“Second, our experienced consultants will meet regularly with both agency supervisors and child protection workers,” Meuwissen says. “Supervisors will receive reflective consultation for one hour a month. Child welfare workers will attend monthly sessions that begin with 15–30 minutes of training and skill-building activities. They’ll learn strategies such as mindfulness and diaphragmatic breathing that will help them to identify and manage the emotions associated with their work. Following these activities, workers will break into small groups for an hour of group reflective consultation.”

Reflective consultants Johnson and Hoeper will make adjustments to training and reflective supervision sessions based on feedback from participants. Participants will have multiple opportunities to share their thoughts both in person and anonymously through surveys.

“We’ll gather data every step of the way,” says Meuwissen. “The data will help us in two ways. First, we’ll be able to make informed adjustments to optimize our program while it’s happening. Second, we’ll discover whether this is a feasible and effective program model for a child welfare agency.”

At the close of the program, which will span about a year and a half, Meuwissen and her colleagues will conduct interviews with each participant to understand their overall perceptions of the program. Finally, Meuwissen will present the study’s findings and recommendations to participants and collect further feedback from them. She will incorporate this feedback into the study’s conclusions, which she will publish as a report as well as disseminate as a podcast.

“We want to know from participants: did this experience reduce their secondary traumatic stress and burnout?” says Meuwissen. “Did it increase their empathy, perspective-taking, and reflectiveness when they worked with clients?”

Meuwissen hopes that this study will demonstrate the benefits of reflective supervision for child protection workers®benefits that also flow to those with whom they work.

“Our goal with this project is to support child welfare workers so that they can better support children and families,” she says.

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 podcast episodes 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.