Cindy Muhar, Milwaukee Child Welfare Partnership
Cindy Muhar has been an ASQ trainer and coach for five years. She currently provides ASQ training and coaching for home visitors, Birth-to-Three providers, and early childhood educators through her work with the Milwaukee Child Welfare Partnership and Milwaukee Succeeds. Cindy also serves as a co-facilitator of the Wisconsin Early Childhood Collaborating Partners ASQ Community of Practice (Southeast region) and coaches ASQ trainers across the state who recently completed the ASQ-3 and ASQ:SE-2 Training of Trainers Institute, with her colleague, Carrie Holden.
What is your role in promoting ASQ screening?
I’d worked with ASQ in the past, but hadn’t used it in several years when I was asked to be an ASQ trainer and coach for Project LAUNCH (Linking Actions for Unmet Needs in Children’s Health), which targeted Milwaukee’s 12 zip codes with the poorest health outcomes for children. While the program has since ended, I’ve continued to be involved with ASQ at the local, regional, and state levels.
What are some of the methods you’ve used to get the word out about ASQ?
While working as a Family Living Educator at UW Extension, I had a small pot of money that I wanted to use to promote the use of the ASQ in our community. While home visiting programs had been using the ASQ for over a decade in Wisconsin, a local coalition (Project LAUNCH) I worked with had targeted childcare providers as essential partners in developmental screening. I thought a short video could engage these providers and get them interested in the ASQ.
I connected with a bilingual videographer, Anna Aragon, who specializes in working with non-profit organizations, and who our office had worked with before. Some of my great community partners also agreed to be part of the production. I never imagined it would get as many ‘hits’ as it has on YouTube. However, what really excites me is that Elizabeth Twombly, M.S. from the ASQ development team called me and asked me if she could use the video in a statewide webinar she was facilitating. At that point, I understood the true star quality of my community partners and Anna’s video production expertise. Very cool! (Watch the video.)
Another time, we put together a press release about the ASQ training I provided and sent it to local media. This little press release inspired our local NPR station to interview me and a doctor who was instrumental in training physicians how to do the ASQ. This helped spread the word in the community.
I use Microsoft Publisher to create lots of marketing flyers for ASQ trainings and I also share new information with our southeast region ASQ Community of Practice members via email and during our meetings and professional development events. Additionally, I’ve presented breakout sessions at conferences and led facilitated discussions during community events about ASQ and developmental screening.
In my current role with UW Milwaukee Child Welfare Partnership, we’ve added links to our website and Facebook pages that provide readers with access to resources related to developmental screening. Our website hosts the Resource Toolkit for Home Visiting and other Early Childhood Professionals. Our Child Health and Development topic has lots of great information for professionals and parents related to early development and screening.
What challenges did you face while promoting your program, and how did you overcome them?
When I started ASQ training in Project LAUNCH, our state had just implemented quality assurance standards for childcare centers, which included a star rating and point system. Centers felt a bit overwhelmed by these new criteria and many weren’t interested in taking on something ‘extra’ or new that (at the time) would not help them meet the star-rating criteria. We found that even though many providers were attending ASQ training to receive the professional development credit, they had no power to implement the tool in their centers, or the cost of the kit was a barrier. Not one center had implemented the tool after the first year of training!
The Project LAUNCH coordinators worked with YoungStar, our state’s childcare quality rating and improvement system, to add developmental screening as a way for centers to earn points for their star attainment. I also changed my marketing strategies. I began to require center directors and/or supervisors to accompany their staff to the free training, so they could support implementation of the tool.
We also allocated Project LAUNCH funds to purchase ASQ-3 kits for centers. Kits and laminated “We Use the ASQ” posters were distributed to centers who met the following three criteria:
- Center staff completed training
- The director completed an ASQ Readiness Checklist
- The center director and I sat together to develop an ASQ implementation plan for the center.
Additionally, group and family centers participated in Project LAUNCH’s ASQ training and technical assistance program. In the end, more than 1,700 ASQ screenings were completed with families during the project!
What has been your greatest success?
Helping infuse passion for developmental screening and ASQ among providers who support families with young children. I love that individuals, families, programs, and communities are using ASQ to determine if a child is developing on track, to recognize parents as the experts of their own children, to build provider-parent partnerships, and to help ensure children are ready for school. Building partnerships is something we do well. It is the driving force for community work!
What general advice would you give to others who want to begin promoting a screening program?
Join an early childhood community coalition or bring people together in your community who support early childhood development. Identify community leaders who will be champions of developmental screening. Our ASQ Community of Practice brings ASQ trainers and ASQ practitioners together to share ideas, encourage best practices, address challenges, and build capacity for universal screening. Build partnerships—partnerships have collective impact! I’ve got great partners!