Can you believe that a Nobel Prize Winner in economics stresses assessing parenting quality in addressing the achievement gap and combating poverty?
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KIPS TIPS September 2013

 Hi ,

Can you believe that a Nobel Prize Winner in economics stresses the importance of assessing parenting quality in addressing the achievement gap and combating poverty?

Read more in the article below . . .

Want to learn more from Voices in the Field?  Go to the KIPS TIPS Archives to read newsletters you've missed. 

Take pride in all you do for children and families!


Nobel Prize Winner Says

You're Doing the Right Thing!


Good things certainly do come in small packages!  James Heckman’s short 137-page book entitled, Giving Kids a Fair Chance (A Strategy that Works)  is a “must read” for all of us who work with infants, toddlers,assessing-parenting-heckman preschoolers and families.  Heckman, a Nobel Prize winning economist at the University of Chicago, wrote this book for us, and also for the public, legislators, policy makers and funders who control the budgets for our programs. This powerful little book is especially pertinent to give us fuel as we work hard to strengthen services for young children and families, while feeling the devastating impact of the sequester and budget cuts.

Heckman Makes Three Powerful Points:

1) More than cognitive skills are important in children’s success;

2) Both cognitive and noncognitive development start early and are primarily determined by the family environment of the child;

3) Early family-focused intervention is the most effective way to give kids a fair chance.

Heckman repeatedly stresses that the research shows what we think of as disadvantage is more about family environment than material resources: 

"… both cognitive and socio-emotional skills develop in early childhood, and their development depends on the family environment. But family environments in the United States have deteriorated over the past 40 years. A growing fraction of our children are being born into disadvantaged families, where disadvantage is most basically a matter of the quality of family life and only secondarily measured by the number of parents, their income, their education levels. And that disadvantage tends to accumulate across generations." - James Heckman, Giving Kids a Fair Chance, page 4

The proportion of children living in poverty in the United States has dramatically risen to 23%. Heckman cites research to argue that it is the impact of poverty on the family environment that negatively impacts our children.  This disturbing trend is our opportunity to make a difference in children’s lives:  Intervening early makes a difference.  Heckman argues that attempts to address disadvantage later in life are less effective, less efficient and cost more.  As Frederick Douglass realized long ago,

It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

Heckman distills his three points into what is known as the Heckman Equation:

Invest + Develop + Sustain = Gain.

Quality investments in the early years can yield up to a sevenfold return on investment.  There is no other known public investment that can make this claim.  

Since it is in the earliest years that the foundations for both cognitive and noncognitive development are established, it makes sense that this is the period to focus intervention efforts.  Heckman emphasizes that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  After all, he is an economist.  He also stresses that the most effective programs address the complexities of the family environment, especially parenting.

Need For Assessment

Furthermore, Heckman points out the importance of assessments in effectively addressing the family factors contributing to disadvantage.  As the KIPS People, we are big proponents of the many values of assessing parenting for children, families, staff and programs.  So you can imagine our delight when a Nobel Prize Winner in Economics wrote: 

 "The proper measure of disadvantage is not necessarily family poverty or parental education. The available evidence suggests that the quality of parenting is the important scarce resource. So we need better measures of risky family environments in order to achieve more accurate targeting."  

James Heckman, Giving Kids a Fair Chance, page 35

We knew you were doing the right thing in using KIPS to guide your services.  Now you have the enthusiastic support of a Nobel Laureate.  The work you do with families is very hard, but the research  shows your work can make a big difference!

Want to help Congress understand the difference your work makes in the lives of children and families? Then, share your story!  The Strong Start for Children Campaign is a coalition of most of the major organizations in the early childhood field. They are collecting stories from early childhood practitioners and families to head-start-assessing-parentingshow the tremendous impact early childhood programs have on a child’s life. Tell how your program or service – whether it’s home visiting, Early Head Start, early intervention, supervised visitation, etc. – has made a difference in the life of a very young child and his/her family. Your story can be as short as a few sentences or as long as a page. All stories will be shared with Congress in Washington DC in September. Share your story at

And send a copy to us at We want to spread the word in KIPS TIPS and our parenting blogs about the daily differences you make with families and children!



 The Proposal Your Funder Dreams About Includes Parenting Assessment.

Take pride in doing the right thing!

Melt your funders' hearts,

or at least open their wallets!

Download the guide to effectively including the KIPS parenting assessment in your proposals.




Welcome New KIPSters!

Amphitheater Public Schools, Tucson, AZ
Early Years & Family Support Services, Rhondda Cyan Taff County, United Kingdom
Easter Seals Blake Foundation, Tucson, AZ  
Easter Seals UCP, New Bern, NC
Easter Seals Vermont, East Calais, VT
Family Support Network, Billings, MT
Imprints, Winston Salem, NC
Juniper Gardens Children's Project, Kansas City, KS
Life Paths Florida, Satellite Beach, FL
Nemours/Thomas Jefferson University, Wilmington, DE & Philadelphia, PA
OneOneCoCo, Essex, United Kingdom
Riverside-San Bernardino County Indian Health, Inc., Beaumont, CA 
Southern Health & Social Care Trust, Northern Ireland 
Surrey Children's Services,  Chessington, United Kingdom
University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, Phoenix, AZ


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 your program, staff and families!

Marilee Comfort & Phil Gordon

The KIPS People - Comfort Consults

POB 82, Cheyney, PA



Read Recent KIPS Cradle Blogs:

Parenting Assessment Raises Engagement in San Francisco Family Resource Centers 

How could parenting assessment increase family engagement?  For many parents, the first point of contact to our Family Resource Centers are our Parent/Child Interactive (PCI) Groups.  Assessing parenting quality as part of the PCI Groups deepens staff understanding of the dyads’ parent-child interaction, which in turn points to specific areas for parenting improvement.  Providing assessment informs specific and detailed support and leads families involved in our PCI Play Groups to understand the potential value of services offered through the Family Resource Centers, which leads to increased parent engagement.   

I just read an article written by a friend and user of KIPS which got me to thinking about the connection of parent-child interaction and secure attachment.  In the article by Robin Balbernie, titled The importance of secure attachment for infant mental health, I was particularly struck by how poetically he captured the role of parenting in attachment.
Those of us who work in early childhood frequently hear reference to the “30 Million Word Gap.”  This phrase derives from a longitudinal study of 42 families by Hart and Risley from the University of Kansas on language acquisition and socioeconomic status.  What we don't often hear are their  powerful findings that, beyond word count, parenting quality matters greatly to children's language development.
I just read a very exciting research paper, so excuse me if I gush some about the work of Helen Neville and colleagues from the University of Oregon.  In their paper, Family-based training program improves brain function, cognition, and behavior in lower socioeconomic status preschoolers, (July 1, 2013, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), they report results that have profound implications for closing the achievement gap of young children from low income families.
I have just completed reading Paul Tough’s, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and Hidden Power of Character I highly recommend this book for anyone working with families.  One of the main themes of thebook is that personal traits, which he refers to as character, are more important than intelligence or academic skills for a person’s success.  Much of the book focuses on how to build character traits during middle and high school, because fully developing these traits requires metacognition. Though it concentrates on middle and high school, this book provides considerable food for thought for those of us focusing on the early years of child development.  With gratitude to Paul Tough, in the next few posts we explore parenting and the development of character.

Read more blogs hereSubscribe to the KIPS Blog to learn about current practice and research related to parenting assessment.        




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