Innovation Fund supports four early childhood projects

This article appeared in the Summer 2012 issue of Erikson on Children under the headline “Innovation Fund moves early childhood field forward.”
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Four recent grants from the J.B. and M.K. Pritzker Faculty Innovation Fund will enable Erikson’s faculty to advance the field of early childhood development — advancements that will translate to improvements in services and policy affecting children and families.

Building teacher/parent partnerships

Image: Professor Pamela Epley

Professor Pamela Epley

Early childhood teachers in inclusive classrooms — where students with and without special needs learn together — can feel unprepared to work with students with disabilities and their parents. Yet strong partnerships between parents and teachers can help young children with disabilities reach their potential. Professor Pamela Epley is examining general pre-kindergarten teachers’ beliefs, knowledge, and practices related to partnering with parents of children with disabilities. She will then develop strategies for supporting teachers’ ability to establish strong partnerships.

Teacher preparation

Image: Professor Gillian McNamee

Professor Gillian McNamee

As the challenges faced by teachers continue to evolve, so too must Erikson’s teacher education program. With the help of the Innovation Fund Award, Professor Gillian McNamee and the teacher education faculty will collect data on how effectively Erikson’s teacher education program has been preparing students for the teaching-learning challenges they face in their practice settings. Faculty will use the information to identify areas where the program can be strengthened and how Erikson can stay responsive to changes in the teaching profession.

International adoption

Image: Professor Tracy Moran

Professor Tracy Moran

New parents sometimes joke about needing a how-to manual for their children. With international adoptions, especially those involving children with special needs, the need for support is even more critical. Families who have recently adopted a child into their homes often don’t know where to turn for help during this period of major adjustment. Professor Tracy Moran and
Dr. Larry Gray, medical director of both Erikson’s Center for Children and Families and the University of Chicago Adoption Center (UCAC) at Comer Children’s Hospital, are collaborating to develop a series of supports for these families, including online resources, discussion groups, and a handbook. The handbook will identify Chicago-area and online resources and mental health information created specifically for these families.

Assessment of Parenting Tool

Professor Tracy Moran has also developed a new measure of parenting self-efficacy — that is, how well you think you’re doing as a parent and how good you feel about your performance in the role — called the Assessment of Parenting Tool (APT). The grant will enable Moran to refine and validate the tool and pilot it with 100 culturally diverse new parents recruited from maternity wards and pediatric clinics. Moran’s ultimate goal is to examine the link between maternal depression, self-efficacy, and parents’ interaction with their very young children.