Academic journal article Health and Social Work

Parent Mentoring and Child Anticipatory Guidance with Latino and African American Families

Academic journal article Health and Social Work

Parent Mentoring and Child Anticipatory Guidance with Latino and African American Families

Article excerpt

Early childhood constitutes a relatively short period of human development, yet it is disproportionately important in setting the stage for optimal health and development across the life span (Starfield, 2004). Specifically, a child's health status, parental child-rearing choices around early developmental milestones, and the family environment set the stage for child well-being, create long-term developmental consequences for school-based learning, and affect risks for developing chronic diseases (Borkowski & Weaver, 2006). The centrality of the family environment in early child development forms the conceptual base for strengthening young children by providing their families with anticipatory child guidance and promoting family-centered care in the delivery of well-baby health services (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2003). Recently, however, the U.S. Preventive Service Task Force found that the amount of time required for delivering all of the needed child well-health preventive services, including necessary support and guidance for families, is not feasible during routine well-baby visits (Yarnall, Pollack, Ostbye, Krause, & Michener, 2003). Research has also revealed that a large proportion of young children living in poverty receive inadequate preventive health care, with the most frequent barriers being providers' lack of comprehension of family needs and lack of sufficient time for service (Zuckerman, Stevens, Inkelas, & Halfon, 2004).

Although family-centered interventions have long been central in social services provision (Kilpatrick & Holland, 2006), developmentally sensitive interventions for families of very young children are relatively new and require extensive multidisciplinary collaboration (Applegate & Shapiro, 2005).Thus, a team of professionals from the social work, nursing, and education fields created and implemented a two-year preventive intervention project of parent mentoring designed to strengthen the anticipatory child guidance of 50 Latino and African American families at an urban primary health care center in Washington, DC. This article presents the pilot intervention, the evaluation process, findings for parents' and children's outcomes, and lessons learned.


Four conceptual domains affect infant development (Sameroff, McDonough, & Rosenblum, 2004) and frame parent mentoring during early childhood.


Infant development is a product of continuous dynamic transactions between developmental processes and caregiving experiences. Indeed, recent studies on brain development confirm that infants' dependence is so pronounced that early inadequate or harmful parenting practices yield persistent negative developmental effects (DeBellis, 2005; Osofsky, 2004). To mitigate these risks, current research suggests that preventive interventions need to be directed at infants, parents, and family home environments (Borkowski & Weaver, 2006).

Social Environmental Resources

Within this transactional model of child development (Sameroff & Chandler, 1975), poor health outcomes are linked to a paucity of family economic resources, gaps in parental education and child development knowledge, and barriers in access to health care (Borkowski &Weaver, 2006). Research has also found that children's well-being and early school readiness are compromised by parents' depression, substance abuse, domestic discord, harsh child-rearing practices, and child neglect (Bradley & Corwyn, 2002). Such risks are particularly prevalent in poor families, and they pose even greater risks in poor immigrant families (McLanahan, 2005). Poverty is also the most significant factor associated with low rates of vaccination and receipt of basic medical care (Rodewalt & Santoli, 2001).

Well-Baby Care

Routine well-baby health care represents a universal opportunity for early engagement of parents in monitoring infant health and growth and learning through anticipatory child guidance. …

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