Early Childhood Intervention

Connecticut Mental Health Champion

In August 2020, Connecticut was selected by the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) National Center on Disability in Public Health made possible through a cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Champions act as community change agents to increase positive parenting practices, through a one-year term of service. Champions provide timely support for children and their families as COVID-19 has impacted school closures, suspended home visiting services, made pediatric visits virtual, and caused additional stress and financial insecurity. Champions will develop state-specific work plans to implement effective strategies for mental health promotion, prevention supports, and the creation of networks (e.g., school, healthcare, and community) to promote better connections between these systems.

With this funding opportunity UCONN UCEDD collaborated with the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) to support families and children affected by the pandemic. COVID 19 has presented a number of additional stressors within the Connecticut families that DCF serve in child protective services. Some of the stressors include loss of job/income, lack of childcare, lack of resources, and stress of homebound schooling. In addition to the fear/anxieties, surrounding illness and loved ones as well as the disruption to the normal routine has been difficult for those impacted mental health as well as those struggling with substance use. In addition to the stressors related to COVID, the increase of racial unrest across the country related to the highly publicized death of George Floyd by the police is having an impact on children, especially young children. This event has opened the dialogue to social and racial injustices and have resulted in protest and riots with a great deal of media coverage and discussions. Many children have been exposed to these occurrences, which could increase their level of stress and anxiety.

In partnership with Department of Children and Families, we develop a work group to identify the need for families and providers and develop CT specific materials for the needs of our communities, use evidence based materials to increase awareness activities and improvement of positive parenting practices and develop strategies for children’s mental health. The use of AUCD’s FIT program was identified as a need.

Family Interaction Training (FIT) program: A Critical New Tool to Support Families and Communities

Family Interaction Training (FIT) is a behavioral training program designed to help parents of young children with disruptive behavior. FIT materials were developed for use by professionals who work with young children but who are not mental health experts, to help parents learn evidence-based parenting strategies to prevent or reduce challenging behaviors. The evaluation feedback thus far has been overwhelmingly positive. With the need to help families and communities being so great, we are making these evaluated FIT materials available now to professionals who work with parents of young children, while work continues to refine the content and develop more tools.

Family Interaction Training logo

Module 1 Strengthening the Parent Child Relationships

Lesson 1 – Introduction to FIT Course & Module 1 Key Concepts

Lesson 2 – Communication

Lesson 3 – Using Attention Strategically

Lesson 4 – Praise

Lesson 5 – Scheduled Parent-Child Playtime

Module 2 Evidence Based Practice and Purposes - Structuring the Environment to Prevent Misbehavior

Lesson 6 – Overview of Module 2 Key Concepts

Lesson 7 – Establishing Routines and Family Rules

Lesson 8 – Giving Clear Directions

Lesson 9 – Anticipating Problems, Using Redirection, and Easing Transitions

Lesson 10 – Helping Your Child Calm Down

Module 3 Evidence Based Practice and Purposes - Effective Strategies for Addressing Misbehavior

Lesson 11 – Overview of Key Concepts for Module 3

Lesson 12 – Time Out

Lesson 13 – Logical Consequences and Removal of Privileges

Lesson 14 – Conclusion

The FIT program consists of lessons, informed by existing evidence regarding critical elements of effective parent training programs that focus on strengthening the parent-child relationship, structuring the environment to prevent misbehavior, and using effective strategies for addressing misbehavior. Video lessons, downloadable guides, handouts, worksheets, and quizzes are included. This course was developed for people from a wide range of disciplines to teach parents of young children to use many of the parenting strategies commonly used in proven programs.