Though using parenting assessment in supervision is time consuming, by incorporating the parenting assessment information directly into goal planning, the Home Visitors see it as relevant to their work. We are finding that the Home Visitors feel more comfort and confidence in working with parents to promote more nurturing parenting.
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KIPS TIPS March 2013

Hi ,

In this KIPS TIPS the Voice From the Field comes from Alison Fennell, Mental Health Manager and Clinical Supervisor at an Early Head Start Program in New Jersey. If you subscribe to our KIPS Cradle blog, you may recognize the lead article.

Alison shares:

  • How their program incorporates parenting assessment into reflective supervision;
  • How Home Visitors reacted to her open-ended questions; 
  • How using assessment results focuses goal planning for each family; and
  • How periodic coaching supports accuracy and confidence in KIPS scoring skills.

Read previous newsletters in the KIPS TIPS Archives.

See all posts and subscribe to the KIPS Cradle blog.

Enjoy Spring, wherever you are!



Using Parenting Assessment in

Early Head Start Supervision

Alison Fennell, MA, LPC, ACS

Mental Health Manager/Clinical Supervisor 

NORWESCAP Early Head Start/Head Start

With Early Head Start’s current spotlight on School Readiness, we are providing specific services to help parents prepare their children for school.  NORWESCAP Early Head Start implements KIPS, which our Early Head Start site reviewers found a highlight of our program.  We now incorporate parenting assessment into our reflective supervision with Home Visitors by scheduling quarterly meetings with each staff person specifically to reflect upon their assessments.

Parenting Assessment in Reflective Supervision

In preparation, the Home Visitor picks out 3 or 4 parenting assessments from their caseload that she would like to think through in some depth during our session. Usually, we start by selecting the parent with whom the Home Visitor feels most challenged. We watch the video of the parent-child interaction and review their scores for assessing parenting. This consistent review in supervision helps Home Visitors look at the full range of markers that describe KIPS ratings and feel more comfortable with assessing parents' skills.  I parenting-assessment-formask the Home Visitor to provide examples of the behaviors that are representative of the scores for particular items. Together we reflect on the observed interaction, identifying the parenting strengths and the opportunities for growth. With an understanding of the strengths and opportunities, we move to planning the next steps with the family.


Parent-Staff Relationships Are Key

Usually, I ask the Home Visitor to reflect on the state of the parent-staff relationship, by asking something like, “Where is your relationship with this mom?” because the state of their relationship is important in tailoring our approach. Open-ended questions and our conversations during supervision guide Home Visitors to consider when, in their relationships with families, they are ready to open deeper conversations with parents that help them think through how they interact with their children. Once a trusting parent-staff relationship is established, the Home Visitors can go beyond giving information or modeling, by introducing the open-ended questions they’ve experienced in supervision to open reflective conversations with families. [For more, see Reflecting on KIPS in KIPS Library>Resources>Tools.] We always reflect on the Home Visitor’s comfort and confidence with both the relationship and potential approaches. I find matching Home Visitor comfort and confidence with the approach is essential to successful follow through. We also use a parent questionnaire in the first 45 days of enrollment, called Touchstone, to guide family goal planning. Reflecting on the relevant information, together we come up with an approach which is recorded in the weekly Home Based Planning Form for each family.  At first Home Visitors felt uneasy with the open-ended questions I was asking concerning the parenting assessment [For more on the Power of Questions, see Nancy Seibel's previous guest blog). Many felt that my follow-up questions were an indication that they had previously given the wrong answer. However, with time they have grown more comfortable with me asking lots of questions. You have to be patient when introducing such an approach, as it takes time for the Home Visitors to get used to suspending conclusions while we wonder together.

Parenting Assessment Lessons Learned

Though this process is time consuming, and even a little stressful, we find many benefits. A key lesson learned is that parenting assessment becomes more useful when we provide support in applying the information toward a relevant family goal. This reflective process allows us to focus our family goals more specifically toward the Early Head Start relationship-based School Readiness framework. After focusing on the more challenging cases, the Home Visitors seem more at ease in incorporating the parenting assessment information into their goal plans with their other families. By incorporating the parenting assessment information directly into goal planning, the Home Visitors see it as relevant to their work. We are finding that the Home Visitors feel more comfort and confidence in working with parents to promote more nurturing parenting.

To keep KIPS scoring skills sharp, my supervision includes holding coaching sessions at each of our sites.  These are scheduled just before the KIPS annual recertification is due. As we practice scoring videos in the KIPS Library Play Video Collection, each Home Visitor scores the videos on her own.  Rather than giving them the answers, I sit on the side, available for individual questions as needed.  When a Home Visitor asks for support, I usually ask about a few items: 1) ”What led you to your rating”, 2) "What I heard you say about the mom’s behavior was ______", and 3) “What does that mean to you?”  These simple steps help our Home Visistors think through their ratings. After one coaching session,  Rita Lewis, a Home Visitor, told me, “I want to thank you for helping me. You helped me reflect back on my answers, and that helped me get ready for the exam.” [Rita recertified with 100% on her first exam in her last Annual Check-Up!]  

Through our reflective process, the quality of the parent-child observation is becoming more detailed, specific and actionable. Home visitors identify more specific behaviors when they watch parent-child interaction, and develop action steps based on what they see and hear.  In addition, using an observational parenting assessment like KIPS, gives us all a common language for discussing parenting, which enhances our collaboration and supervision. Having specific language to describe our observations facilitates our goal planning and translates directly to our support for parents. Our quarterly reflective supervision sessions have revealed the real value for our families of using a parenting assessment tool. It takes time and effort to assess parenting. It was hard to change what we were doing. But once the Home Visitors “get it”, they can use it, and that makes a big difference for families.



Welcome New KIPSters!

Beech Acres Parenting Center, OH

Building Bright Futures, NE

Chippewa County Human Services, AZ

Easter Seals Blake Foundation, AZ

Family Services of Tulare County, CA

Good Beginnings of Sullivan County, NH

Healthy Families of the Blue Ridge, VA

PATSCH Project, National SafeCare Training and Research Center, Georgia State University, GA

Newport News Healthy Families, VA

Onslow Partnership for Children Early Head Start, NC

Surrey Children's Services, Chessington, UK

 Yearning to Travel to Conferences this Spring? 

At the April 12, 2013 conference at the University of Gloucestershire, Assessing Parenting in the Early Years: A Basis for Intervention ., hear Robin Balbernie, a clinical psychologist and KIPS Champion in the UK, share his experiences with KIPS.  

At the National Smart Start Conference (May 2013, Greensboro, NC), Phil Gordon will offer a workshop titled, The Principles of Giving Effective Feedback.  See the KIPS Cradle Blogs for a taste of what Phil will be doing in the workshops.

Angela Rau (Actt Consulting, PAT Trainer) and Marilee Comfort will team up for a workshop at the National Smart Start Conference (May 2013, Greensboro, NC) on Reflecting with Parents Using the KIPS Assessment and PAT Curriculum. Borrowing from the infant mental health field, learn to Watch>Wait>Wonder>Respond>Track while combining KIPS and PAT Resources to partner with parents in working on parenting goals.

If you attend any of these conferences, please come and share your KIPSter experiences.





Read Recent KIPS Cradle Blogs:

Supervision: Key to Making Parenting Assessment Matter to Children

Seven Reasons to Use Video for Parenting Assessment

Parenting Assessment: Powerful Questions - Powerful Results

Assessing What Matters to Parents as Teachers Families & Children

Good News for Funding at the Pew Home Visiting Summit

Early Head Start Site Reviewers Support Assessing Parenting

Bill Gates on Measuring Progress & Importance of Parenting Assessment

Early Head Start School Readiness: It’s All About Relationships



Read more blogs and Subscribe to the KIPS Cradle        



Where Can I Find KIPS Online Training and Supports?

KIPS online training and support systems use three separate web addresses. It's a good idea to bookmark each in your browser, so you can get to them when you need them.

Here are the links:

KIPS eLearning:

KIPS Annual Check Up:

KIPS Library:

Forgot your password? On each login page click on HELP! I forgot my password. Type in your username (usually your email address), and the program automatically sends you an email with your username and password.

Order KIPS training and library subscriptions at




Let us know how KIPS fits with your program, staff and families!

Marilee Comfort & Phil Gordon

The KIPS People - Comfort Consults

POB 82, Cheyney, PA




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