Smart Beginnings

The Smart Beginnings Study tests a comprehensive approach to the promotion of school readiness in low income families, beginning shortly after the birth of the child, through enhancement of positive parenting practices (and when present, reduction of psychosocial stressors) within the pediatric primary care platform. We do so by integrating two evidence-based interventions: a universal primary prevention strategy (Video Interaction Project [VIP]) and a targeted secondary/tertiary prevention strategy (Family Check-up [FCU]) for families with infants/toddlers identified as having additional risks.

​VIP provides parents with a developmental specialist who videotapes the parent and child and coaches the parent on effective parenting practices at each pediatric primary care visit. FCU is a home-based, family centered intervention that utilizes an initial ecologically focused assessment to promote motivation for parents to change child-rearing behaviors, with follow-up sessions on parenting and factors that compromise parenting quality.

​Two primary care settings serving low-income communities in New York City, NY (Bellevue Hospital) and Pittsburgh, PA (Magee Women’s Hospital and Children’s Hospital) will be utilized to test our integrated intervention in hospital-based clinics, providing information about translation across venues where one of the two interventions has been previously used alone. We are currently testing the VIP/FCU model in a randomized trial of 400 families (200 to VIP/FCU, 200 to routine care) utilizing parent surveys, observational data on parent-child interactions, and direct assessments of children’s development, at key points during intervention follow-up.

​Analyses will address questions of program impact for the integrated program across all families and by key subgroups, and the added value of FCU to VIP. At a broader level, we will test whether an integrated primary and secondary/tertiary prevention strategy implemented in pediatric primary care can produce impacts on early school readiness outcomes, including social-emotional, pre-academic, and self-regulation. As such, this study has the potential to provide the scientific and practice communities with information about an innovative approach to promoting school readiness skills among low-income children.