SaintA and Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin recently received an Agency Research Award from the Helen Bader School of Social Welfare at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee for our collaboration with UWM on Project Connect. This research project helped foster children ages 3-6 with behavioral challenges and their caregivers develop behavior management techniques using what is called Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT). We are thrilled to have won this award, and I especially want to acknowledge our two therapists who took the lead with PCIT, Crystal Simpson and Jessica Goodman Schutz.
PCIT is an evidenced-based treatment approach where we teach caregivers how to be their child’s therapist. Instead of dropping the child off at a therapist and having them engage in play therapy there, with PCIT we essentially teach the caregiver the critical skills needed to be the child’s therapist.
PCIT provides live coaching through an ear bud as the caregiver and child interact behind a two-way mirror while they are being observed by a clinician. It empowers the caregiver to use the skills the clinician is teaching without the clinician actually being present in the room.
The first phase focuses on relationship-building, which enhances positive relationships that provide the foundation for the second phase, where parents learn effective discipline techniques.
I’m pleased to say that we worked well as a team and were able to build positive connections with families and get buy-in from them. We were able to help them believe that change is possible – and they were actually able to see change in the children. This ranged from small to huge changes.
Many of the foster parents initially were skeptical, as they never had seen their child be attentive. Often they said they had been using time-outs, but that they didn’t work for their child. As a result, many of the foster parent-child interactions were consumed by negative behavior, rather than allowing them to truly enjoy spending time together.
By the time the workshops were over, as well as through some of the follow-up phone conversations we had, foster parents were reporting positive interactions with their children and actually enjoying time with them. They reported increased attentiveness and the desire of the child for more positive attention. Lastly, foster parents were able to see how being clear with expectations and follow-through with the time-out protocol was successful.
We enjoyed hearing stories of how time-outs used to last hours, then foster parents reported a decrease in the amount of time time-outs taken, as well as an overall decrease in the need for time-outs.
SaintA is committed to continuing the spread of evidence-based practice, including PCIT. Additional administrative and program staff are being trained in PCIT this summer (thanks to UWM) to increase the number of agency programs with the ability to use PCIT to help the children and families they serve.
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