The research of nursing professor Kathryn Barnard over the past three decades on parent-child interactions has influenced thousands of lives. The results of her work have been incorporated into a training program that has been delivered to health care professionals across the U.S. and in countries all over the world.
Barnard's research arose from the recognition in the late 1960s of the importance of identifying children at risk as soon as possible for early intervention. Children at risk are those with failure to thrive; seriously ill newborns, particularly premature babies; and children who have been abused or neglected. Focusing on the ecology of early childhood development, Barnard has devised methods for assessing behaviors of children and parents. She has identified the environmental factors that are critical to a child's well-being. Barnard's findings have demonstrated the importance of parent-child interaction as a predictor of later cognitive and language development.
Methods developed in these studies, widely known as the Nursing Child Assessment Satellite Training (NCAST) program, initially were taught in 1979 in a series of eight classes delivered via satellite to 19 cities in the western U.S. Over 600 nurses initially received training in the use of a series of tools for assessing parent-child interactions during those sessions.
By 1995, there were 394 certified and active NCAST trainers distributed in almost every American state and in eleven foreign countries. Nearly 14,000 health care professionals have received training in use of the methods, which have been applied in many settings, including 40 Comprehensive Child Care Programs, the Memphis New Mothers Project, the Healthy Families America Movement, and projects promoted by the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse. Thousands of nurses, physicians, psychologists, psychiatrists, nutritionists, occupational therapists, early childhood educators, and social workers now use Barnard's concept of parent-child interaction and assessment methods as a routine part of their daily practice.
NCAST has been established at the UW as a self-sustaining, non-profit program for academic and continuing education, and continues to incorporate the results of ongoing research efforts of the UW team.