Reflections on the year from IY Program Developer Carolyn Webster-Stratton
The Covid-19 pandemic has presented one challenge after another. After 10 months of this isolated marathon, we are all mentally, physically, and emotionally drained. However, the vaccine is lighting the end of the tunnel. Covid-19 has changed most everything about how we live and work, and we’ve all had to innovate to meet the challenges. Some of these changes are really unpleasant, particularly social distancing from our loved ones. However, not all changes are bad, and I would like to talk about some of the possible “silver linings” that have come out of this crisis for the Incredible Years (IY).
Implementing Online the Incredible Years Way
Thankfully the IY business received a small government loan in April which allowed us to keep our staff employed in the early months when all our prescheduled trainings were cancelled. We began by supporting previously trained IY group leaders in ways to reach out to families and children by offering our programs and support with on-line IY program delivery. I did many international webinars on how to use this new IY parent and child program delivery method in a quality way, mirroring many of the established IY in-person experiential methods and processes such as mediating vignettes for on-line group discussions, setting up Zoom room practices, and promoting participant sharing and problem solving. The parent evaluations of group leader program delivery have been very positive. Families have appreciated getting support at this time, establishing new support networks and involving other family members in the training at home. In turn agencies found some advantages to on-line delivery including the reduced costs for venues, food, and day care and improved family attendance. It is clear that the international team of Incredible Years group leaders have been an incredibly resilient and adaptable; reaching out to support families with flexible time schedules and ongoing caring and support.
Online IY Group Leader Training & Consultation
We also pivoted to develop on-line protocols for training IY group leaders in IY program delivery. These are mostly offered as 5 3-hour training sessions spread out 2-3 times a week. These trainings have involved professionals worldwide from Spain, New Zealand, Estonia, Lithuania, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Canada, Finland, China, Hong Kong, and the United States. In some international trainings, we have used agency-provided professional interpreters to deliver trainings with simultaneous translations on Zoom.
These on-line trainings have been remarkably well received with no dropouts, engaged participants, and very positive evaluations. We are now offering online IY group leader training in the following programs: Baby, Toddler, Preschool, School Age, Home Coaching, and Advance parent programs as well as Classroom and Small Group Dina programs, Teacher Classroom Management (TCM), Incredible Beginnings (IB), and the Autism Teacher and Parent programs.
As we became comfortable with on-line training, we also started offering on-line consultations with trained IY group leaders. These sessions involve 4-5 group leaders who show videos of their groups with a goal for the group to help with. The group gives positive feedback and then engages in a collaborative brainstorm to generate new ideas and role play possible responses to the group leader’s question. Even our accreditation video reviews are now being completed on-line with the group leader showing their videos “live” to a trainer in a Zoom session. I think this has improved group leaders’ understanding of the group leader process.
Online Program Streaming
Finally, we are in the process of moving all our video programs to an on-line streaming format, and new IY programs are available for streaming every month. This streaming allows easy access to the video vignettes, reducing some of the difficulties with DVDs or USBs. Moreover, a one-year on-line streaming license, with manuals and other program materials, is less expensive than a curriculum set with the DVD/USB option. This provides a reasonable entry-point for smaller agencies who are just starting their first groups or are operating on a smaller budget to test out an IY program with a lower initial investment.
Challenges and Future Plans
Virtual training events are not without their challenges as digital images can break up and internet bandwidth is variable. Perhaps the greatest challenge is the inevitable glitch of an unfamiliar and not entirely reliable technology. While we all love face to face work and are eager to return to a more personal real life training method, I also realize that we will want to keep some of these innovations when the Covid pandemic is over. On-line training allows us a wider reach to clinicians in different countries or small agencies who don’t have the resources to send someone for a training in Seattle or elsewhere. For clinicians, knowing how to deliver on-line means that if parents miss sessions, they can do make ups with them online. Or, for families who live too far away to attend a group, there is another method for bringing parenting services to them. The between session-group leader telephone calls can now be replaced with on-line calls that offer the possibility of clinicians doing parent-child practices online and incorporating other family members into the training. So, I am sure we will evolve into some kind of hybrid model of IY program delivery going forward, which we will continue to research.
I have been continually impressed with the number of IY group leaders and mentors around the world going above and beyond to support children and families day after day. If you told me at the beginning of the year that I would be transforming our business to training on-line I would have said “no way” … however because of the sense of urgency to support families at this time, there was no other option and on-line training became a necessity. We plan to continue to do this transformation carefully and thoughtfully, evaluating as we go along and revising as needed.
Our Incredible Team
I am so grateful to my incredible Seattle team because I couldn’t have done all of this without their energy and commitment. Lisa Gloria has led the effort to create streaming versions of IY programs that can replace the DVD or USB versions. She also oversees certification applications, keeps the web site up to date, provides blogs on new materials, and organizes technology for different training protocols. Jamila Reid masterminds a complex puzzle of training requests, helps agencies with fidelity implementation and planning, and leads training of child and teacher group leaders. Emily Barkley devises budgets for grants, sends out newsletters, overviews inventory, prepares purchase orders and creates and follows up on invoices. Clarissa Ramirez and Eliza Romero manage the order requests and packing for materials, order materials as needed, manage data entry and ship out materials. Finally, my husband John Stratton manages taxes, meets with accountants, and tries to keep me safely on the pathway forward.
Wishing you all a happy holiday time and look forward to 2021 when we can reconnect face to face. With love and thankfulness.
Incredible Years, Inc.
1411 8th Avenue West, Seattle WASHINGTON 98119 United States
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