Kansas Attachment Bio-Behavioral Catch-Up Early Childhood Initiative (ABC)
The Kansas ABC Early Childhood Initiative sought to expand early childhood service capacity in Kansas through a series of strategic activities:
1. Increase awareness about early childhood development, especially social-emotional development, to make the connection between science and the need to invest early
2. Demonstrate how utilization of an evidence-based intervention can improve the health of children 6 to 24 months of age
3. Increase the capacity of parent coaches to provide an evidence-based intervention supporting families as a way to mitigate the effects of toxic stress in children
4. Increase the number of early childhood service providers utilizing ABC for families they serve when needed
5. Utilize ABC as a demonstration project to make the case for increased investments in early childhood services and evidence-based home visiting models with state agencies
6. Support organizations in securing sustainable funding for early childhood services
ABC focuses on building healthy families through the development of secure attachment, nurturance, and positive regard. While the ABC intervention is typically completed over just ten weeks, research to date has shown measurable, long-term positive impacts lasting at least into middle childhood.
To explore whether ABC would deliver the same results for Kansas children, a collaboration of Kansas foundations funded ABC to expand early childhood service capacity in Kansas and evaluate the replicability and efficacy, at scale, of integrating an evidence-based intervention into the array of early childhood home-visiting programs through five sites in varying settings and geographic locations across Kansas.
Read more about our work:
KU Researchers Seek to Combat 'Stress Hormone' in Children in Adverse Family Situations
KU part of program that successfully reduces toxic stress in families
Phase 1 Results
Overall, the $2.4 million initiative successfully increased early childhood capacity and awareness across the state, made a difference in the lives of 682 caregivers and 907 children, provided valuable lessons for how challenges in implementation can be creatively overcome, and further demonstrated that early childhood interventions like ABC not only make good economic sense but more importantly empower individual families to raise happy, healthy kids – providing strong foundations helping them to reach their full potential.
• Awareness increased around the importance, and return on investment, of investing early in the healthy social-emotional development of Kansas children. There is also growing recognition among policymakers in Kansas and nationally of the potential for the ABC intervention to improve student outcomes for at-risk children, prevent at-risk families from entering the child welfare system, and help children transition out of the child welfare system.
• Sites successfully developed sustainable funding to continue delivering ABC after Phase 1 ended. Two sites are participating in the Family First Prevention and Services Program, receiving funds to deliver services to prevent kids from entering the child welfare system. Two other sites were able to set up processes to bill through Medicaid or insurance for ABC services.
• 39 infant parent coaches and 10 toddler parent coaches were trained, and 12 learning community meetings facilitated extended learning and sharing about early childhood services including ABC.
Phase 1 Report
Our Work Changes Lives
Over the course of three years, the Kansas ABC Early Childhood Initiative was able to impact the lives of Kansas families across 36 counties. 536 families were screened for toxic stress, 402 families were enrolled to receive the ABC intervention, and 682 caregivers and 907 children were impacted.
"Because at the beginning I didn't know what to do with her. Because when she... wanted something and I couldn't understand her I would get frustrated. I'd be like, well maybe I'm not that good of a parent because I'm not understanding her. But now I went through ABC, I've seen that it's okay because a bunch of parents go through it."
Phase 2 of the Kansas ABC Early Child-hood Initiative (2020 – 2023) supports implementation sites as they build capacity with the toddler version of ABC and work towards long-term sustainability. In designing the evaluation for Phase 2 of the Kansas ABC Early Childhood Initiative, the evaluation team considered what the overall ABC body of literature already demonstrates, what our local evaluation found in Phase 1, and what new questions or outcomes have yet to be explored. Assessments have been added to measure school readiness, caregiver stress, and caregiver empowerment.