A Proven Parenting Program for NYC
In late July, the Administration for Children’s Services announced plans to provide vulnerable babies and toddlers with the Attachment and Biobehavioral Catch-up (ABC) program—a practical parenting intervention that aims to strengthen bonds between young children and their caregivers. “A young child’s ability to form secure attachments is a proven, powerful factor that protects against stress and trauma, and is associated with lifelong positive outcomes,” ACS explains on its website.
Starting as soon as October, young children and their caregivers in the Brownsville and East New York sections of Brooklyn will be able to participate in the highly structured program, that was developed by psychologists at the University of Delaware. Many will be babies and toddlers who are living in foster homes or who have recently been reunited with their parents after leaving foster care. However, some will likely participate in ABC through foster care preventive services.
Using private money, the organization Power of Two will also make the intervention available to any family with young kids in Brownsville or East New York. The goal, says Anne Heller, executive director of Power of Two, is "to make a meaningful dent in intergenerational poverty by empowering caregivers to provide their infants with the foundation they need."
For several years, the Queens-based foster care agency Forestdale, Inc. has run a small ABC program for babies in their foster care program. ABC coaches visit babies, toddlers and their caregivers one hour a week in their homes, where they videotape caregivers interacting with their children and then give feedback. They point out the positive aspects of their parenting and discuss young children's developmental needs. They stress four principles of parenting young children: nurture babies and respond to their stress in comforting ways; follow the lead of young children and allow them to explore at their own pace; show delight in a child; and avoid behavior that a baby will find frightening or confusing, such as teasing.
Studies have found that the model has a strong completion rate with caregivers, and that young children who received ABC experienced less stress and were more frequently securely attached to their caregivers than children who received a different intervention.
Over the next three years, ACS expects the model to expand throughout all five boroughs. “Caregivers will receive concrete feedback, encouragement and support while learning to understand and positively relate to their children’s emotions and behavioral cues,” ACS says on its site.