Assessing parenting accurately matters to children and families. Becoming certified and maintaining reliability with assessments are part of earning this trust.
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KIPS TIPS March 2014

 Hi ,  

You work hard to build trust with the parents you serve.  Becoming certified and maintaining reliability with assessments are part of earning this trust. Trust and Quality go hand in hand as we guide parents to be the best they can be for their children.  Read about how to ensure quality parenting assessments below.


Why Use A Trustworthy Parenting Assessment?

We did a little study on the pass rates for the KIPS eLearning and KIPS Annual Check-Up, which may be of interest to you. But first let’s review why we assess parenting at all. When you first start working with a family, how do you know what skills parents bring to their interactions with their children? How do you know which direction they need to go to be the best parent they can be? How do you help them respond to the individual needs of each one of their children?  There are a range of assessment tools you could use.  However, if you’re interested in assessing what really matters to children, you need to observe and assess parents in action.  After all, it’s the parents’ behavior that matters to children.

parenting_assessment_trainingThis is why you chose an observational assessment over a survey, interview or checklist. You chose a structured observational tool which specifies the parenting behaviors to observe and has behavioral descriptions over a 5-point scale to assess quality.  Like other high caliber tools, KIPS underwent years of development and validation research to be certain that the behaviors assessed are meaningful to children’s development, that the tool measures the behaviors intended, the scale is sensitive over a range of behavior quality, and the resulting scores correlate as expected with other validated parent-child interaction measures. That’s why it’s so important to resist simply picking any parenting assessment tool off the shelf and using it without careful examination.  You and your families can trust that KIPS has undergone rigorous development and validation and continues to be used in research and evaluation studies . ( See KIPS Success Stories).

Assessing Parenting Isn’t Easy

Once you have selected a tool, it’s vital to learn how to use it reliably in order to conduct accurate assessments for families.  Few of us have been trained to watch a parent and child interacting, carefully noting their body language and facial expressions and listening to their words and sounds. While being trained to assess parenting, many practitioners tell us that targeted observation of parent-child interaction is a new experience for them that really opens their eyes to valuable insights about themselves and their families that hadn’t previously come to mind.

All home visitors should have this knowledge because it is the families we are trying to reach, win, help with problems, inform, and direct them to the proper resources.  How are we to know if we do not have the ability to assess the areas that are most important and are the vital points for the family to function in the proper manner, so that each person will benefit from being on the family team?        

Ila Rice, Parent Educator, Cochise Parents as Teachers, AZ

Maintaining Assessment Reliably

Even after learning to observe, it takes time and practice to score an assessment tool reliably. Reliability means that different trained observers score the same interaction similarly.  Merely sitting through an in-person training session, watching a DVD, or clicking through an online training isn’t enough. High quality assessments require certification that includes periodic demonstration of reliability using the assessment tool. Parenting is complex.  It’s no wonder that it takes considerable work to become skilled at reliably assessing parenting using a scale that assesses a range of behavior. 

As a parent educator who is a parent myself, I know I come to some family experiences with my own parenting bias.   When I was going through the online training, I noticed many times when I relied on my “gut instinct” for my scoring, I was more likely to get a score incorrect.  I have had to learn to recognize, and then not pay attention to, my “gut” feelings about what I am seeing –to take my bias out of my scoring experience entirely. - Jill Dore, Horry Co. First Steps, SC  

Remember, the reason for learning to observe so carefully is to help you figure out where each parent isSlide1 and which direction to guide him/her in strengthening their parenting skills.  It takes time and effort to learn, but the rewards are well worth it. The KIPS eLearning course offers three opportunities for learners to pass a scoring exam.  A review of 50 learners taking our online course in December 2013 showed that 70% certified on the first exam attempt, suggesting that just working through a course isn’t sufficient for about a third of the learners.  This illustrates the importance of requiring someone to show competence for certification. The good news is that with additional work, the remaining 30% certified by passing their second or third exam.  For this sample of 50, with a little extra effort, 100% of the learners certified to use the KIPS parenting assessment. It is important to point out that the learners knew they would need to score reliably to certify. What do you think the results would be without this expectation?

Maintaining Quality: Accuracy Depends on You

Slide2Since quality matters, after becoming successfully certified, there’s still work to be done to ensure ongoing reliability. Without regular feedback, there’s a tendency to drift away from a tool’s scoring standards. Even with the interactive supports offered in the KIPS Library Play Video Collection, a review of 50 online Annual Check-Ups for recertification showed that only 54% passed the first exam. This suggests that scoring had become unreliable for 46% of the sample. These were KIPSters who knew from the outset that they would be required to check their scoring skills annually. The good news for this group is that all passed on the second or third opportunity. This demonstrates they could do accurate parenting assessments with a little practice and feedback. What might the results be for those using a tool without any checks on their scoring reliability? Assessment tools that don’t require regular recertification risk unreliable scoring that could mislead families and misrepresent program outcomes.  We notice that programs that build in activities for maintaining scoring ability recertify more easily than those that don’t. Successful programs do reliability checks on a sample of assessments for quality assurance. Scoring review can also be worked into supervision, staff meetings or case reviews to keep scoring skills sharp. The combination of supervisor and peer supports, scoring practice in the KIPS Library, and Annual Check-Ups can help maintain the highest assessment quality for families.

You work hard to build trust with the parents you serve.  It is through this trust that you make positive impacts.  Becoming certified and maintaining reliability with assessments are part of being trustworthy.  Assessments provide you insights to help parents nurture their children. With accurate assessment information you can more effectively serve parents, provide specific and meaningful feedback, as well as document parents’ progress and success. Trust and Quality go hand in hand as we guide parents to be the best they can be for their children today, tomorrow and for future generations.

Wondering What Else KIPS Can Do For You?

Read Success Stories written by your sister KIPSters to discover what they are learning with KIPS.

Read Success Stories




Welcome New KIPSters!

SafeCare Colorado, Kempe Center, University of Colorado Denver, Aurora, CO
Child Signature Program, University of California Irvine, CA
Families and Communities Together, Inc., Hillsboro, KS
Four County Mental Health Center, Coffeyville and Independence, KS
Geary County Schools, USD 475, Junction City, KS
Hays Public Schools, USD 489, Hays, KS
Jewish Board of Family & Children Services Child Development Center, New York, NY
Kansas Children's Service League, Topeka, KS
Lister Health Centre, London, United Kingdom
New River Community Action - CHIP, Radford, VA 
Parent Infant Mental Health, St. Ann's Hospital, London, United Kingdom
PSS, Liverpool, United Kingdom
Russell Child Development Center, Garden City, KS
Salvation Army, Spokane, WA
School of Social Work, University of Maryland Baltimore, MD
Success by 6 Coalition of Douglas County, Lawrence, KS
Topeka Public Schools, Topeka, KS
United Way of the Plains, Wichita, KS


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




Read Recent KIPS Blogs:


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




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Marilee Comfort & Phil Gordon

The KIPS People - Comfort Consults

POB 82, Cheyney, PA


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