Three SFTA member agencies were recently chosen to receive funding to implement Parents Interacting With Infants (PIWI) in their regions, through Race to the Top funds distributed by the Pyramid Model State Leadership Team. PIWI is an approach involving parents and their babies, meant to strengthen the child/parent bond and understanding while also building parents’ confidence and knowledge as caregivers. The agencies awarded these funds—Family Resource Center of Eau Claire County, Northwest Connection Family Resources, and Family Connections of Southwest Wisconsin – each have a unique take on the implementation of PIWI in their regions.
Family Resource Center of Eau Claire County
Kari Stroede, Executive Director of the Family Resource Center of Eau Claire County, stated that her agency is taking a four-part approach to implementing PIWI.
“Along came this grant opportunity and we thought, wow, we can really blend multiple things here,” said Kari.
The funding will primarily be used to offer “Baby Cafés;” a six-part series for infants and their parents incorporating PIWI methodology. These cafés will take place for an hour and a half once a week from April through May of 2016. Cafés are currently still in the planning stages in terms of what the structure will look like, but recruitment is already in the works. The agency plans to take café invitations directly into birthing centers at local hospitals, so that new parents can easily access this opportunity. Parents will receive yet-to-be-determined incentives for attending all six cafés.
“We are very intentional in terms of how we plan the Baby Cafés,” stressed Kari. “It’s a support place for parents…focused on where they are at.”
Family Resource Center of Eau Claire County is partnering with Child Care Partnership (the local Child Care Resource & Referral agency and SFTA member), who will provide a PIWI certified trainer for the Baby Cafés. Northwest Breastfeeding Network is also a partner in planning, and may offer the opportunity for Baby Cafés to extend beyond the funded period, as a continuing monthly or bi-monthly event, where a lactation specialist would be available.
In addition to Baby Cafés, the agency’s PIWI funding will be used to create ten “Play with Me” bags—with mobile and non-mobile infants in mind—for families to check out for up to a month. The bags will contain items such as washable toys and other materials focused on different developmental periods, to support child development and parent-child interactions. Kari recently submitted a grant to an area community foundation to create 20 more bags focused on preschool -aged children, to expand this effort beyond infants.
The agency has also budgeted to build an infant-toddler library containing high-quality materials that can be used to support PIWI implementation. The libraries are housed within latched transport tubs for easy mobility, so that if another agency wants to create and support a PIWI play group or Baby Café, they have materials to get them started.
Finally, a portion of the PIWI funding will be used to support child care programs with 2 or 3 Star ratings in YoungStar, Wisconsin’s Child Care Quality Rating & Improvement System, in understanding and implementing PIWI. Family Resource Center of Eau Claire County has connected with two child care programs in Eau Claire that have large infant populations. Together they plan to offer a PIWI coaching clinic in the fall where providers from other programs will be invited. The clinic will be followed by triadic coaching in the classrooms to teach providers how to implement PIWI into their program on a regular basis.
“Our desired outcome would be that we continue the collaboration, the partnerships that we have created through this,” said Kari. “We are all in this together. We are really very tickled with the collaborative piece of this.”
Family Connections of Southwest Wisconsin
Funding received by Family Connections of Southwest Wisconsin (Child Care Resource & Referral agency and SFTA member), will be focused in Lafayette County, according to Executive Director Sabrina Earl. The agency has already built community connections in this county through the Parent Cafés they are currently hosting, and this area has been identified as having higher Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) scores compared to the rest of the agency’s service delivery area. A higher ACE score indicates an individual is at a greater risk for physical and mental health issues, and poorer overall outcomes. PIWI funding directed where these higher risks exist will target those who need it most.
“So often our families are not connecting anymore,” said Sabrina. “I really think families need that connection.”
Family Connections of SWWI, true to its name, is creating an opportunity for families to connect through their PIWI funding. Three families from a local 2 Star child care program and three families from Head Start will be chosen based on need, to meet at the Darlington Community Center starting in September. They will meet weekly for an hour and a half to 2 hours, for 6 weeks. Families will take part in guided activities centered on PIWI, facilitated by Sabrina and a family resource center staff member. Head Start and child care program staff will shadow the sessions in order to learn effective PIWI implementation. Participating families will also be encouraged to participate in Parent Cafés to continue to build supports and connect with parents in other venues. After the initial 6-week period funded by this grant, Head Start plans to continue monthly meetings with families in their services in a similar fashion, while the child care provider will use PIWI to support continuing family engagement in their program.
Northwest Connection Family Resources
Northwest Connection Family Resources is working with multiple community partners to implement their PIWI funding, including UW Extension Educator, Indianhead Community Action Agency Head Start, Sawyer County Birth to 3, Hayward Community Schools, the Mino Maajiswein Home Visitation Program and Star Bright Daycare. Two planning meetings have taken place thus far, to outline community needs, partnership roles and anticipated outcomes. These meetings also involved discussions about recruitment and how to support parent/child pairs in expanding on their current strengths to reach higher levels of engagement and learning.
Up to eight parent/child pairs will attend a 6-week PIWI-focused series. Community partners will identify two families they would like to invite to the first series, which will begin Thursday, April 21st from 9:30 to 11 am at Northwest Connection Family Resources. Because social emotional competency is the foundation of early childhood development, the series covers related topic areas including: What Makes Me Laugh and Why I Need You. Participants will be encouraged to attend every session through weekly incentives, and a completion certificate and incentive given to each family. Child care will be offered for siblings in order to effectively support the participating parent/child pairs during the PIWI program.
“In every session, through a variety of activities, songs and books, parents will learn about their child’s development, temperament, and interests while having fun together in developmentally supportive environments,” said Northwest Connection Family Resources Co-Director, Kathy Mullally.
Northwest Connections Family Resources will continue to gain valuable insight from partners and parents through this first series, which will help guide the planning for the next PIWI series to be held in the fall.
Stay tuned to our social media and partner agency websites for updates on these awesome efforts!
*This article was originally published in SFTA’s Q1 2016 newsletter. View the full newsletter here, and access previous newsletters through our publication archives.