Circle of Security-Parenting (COSP™) is an evidence-based, eight-week group parenting program for families with children under six years old. COSP™ aims to strengthen the parent-child relationship by helping parents serve as a source of security for their children. In Nebraska, COSP™ Programs are offered statewide in 50 communities. A state-level leadership team meets quarterly to maintain appropriate support for facilitators, hear from facilitators about their needs, discuss and make recommendations about any potential implementation issues, and identify opportunities for ongoing funding and support. State-level coordination is provided by Rooted in Relationships (RiR), an initiative that supports the social-emotional development of children birth through age 8. A state COSP™ website includes a calendar of locations where COSP™ Programs will be offered and the language that will be used by the facilitator, as well as a list of COSP™ facilitators. The website also features evaluation reports, social-emotional resources, and facilitator resources.
Decisions to sponsor COSP™ Programs are made at the local level by a variety of early childhood stakeholder groups and organizations, although there is also strong support from state organizations and agencies. For example, the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation (NCCF) supports the efforts of community collaboratives, which are comprised of local early childhood and other stakeholders, through funding, facilitation, and technical assistance. These community collaboratives select from a number of evidence-based prevention programs, which includes COSP™, to implement in their communities. A state-level coordinator, contracted with Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services Division of Children and Family Services, which includes the Child Welfare and Economic Assistance divisions, reaches out to encourage local facilitators to offer COSP™ Programs for families who may be court-ordered to attend. Other program sponsors include the six Nebraska Behavioral Health Region systems and Early Childhood Planning Region Teams, which are comprised of local Part C early intervention stakeholders such as parents, advocates, and representatives from school districts, agencies, and Head Start.
The most recent data report indicates that social service agencies (including mental health practitioners and social workers) sponsor 34 percent of COSP™ Programs, RIR and partner NCCF initiatives sponsor 30 percent, and education agencies (including University Extension and school districts, through which Part C early intervention services are provided) sponsor 16 percent. Sponsoring organizations may have a COSP™ facilitator on staff to offer the course, or they may work with independent local facilitators. Sponsoring organizations will typically recruit participants from the population they serve, while also offering slots to the broader public.
Sources of outreach for COSP™ Programs include local child welfare agencies, local advertising (television news, Facebook), school districts and Part C early intervention programs, churches, preschools, and child care providers. In some areas of the state, judges and caseworkers mandate COSP™ for all families with a finding of substantiated abuse or neglect. The Nebraska Association for the Education of Young Children has a contract with the Department of Health and Human Services to enroll referred child welfare-involved families in COSP™ Programs. COSP™ facilitators are required to submit an additional form to the participating families’ caseworkers to ensure completion of class. The classes these families attend almost always include non-mandated families because it is a tenant of COSP™ to serve families with varied needs.
In the case of Part C referrals, a service coordinator will usually share the opportunity with the families they work with, even in cases where Part C is not sponsoring the program. Part C-sponsored classes may be offered to Part C families initially, with remaining slots opened to the community if they are not filled.
Partners in Nebraska have worked with Circle of Security International to support two large-scale training cohorts, resulting in 216 trained COSP™ facilitators in the state. Additional facilitators have participated in training outside the state, bringing the total number of facilitators in Nebraska to approximately 240. COSP™ training for facilitators is conducted with a video-based, manualized program over four six-hour sessions. Most trained facilitators offer COSP™ classes. Home visitors also use COSP™ in home visits by going through the program with families in their home over the course of 8-10 weeks, and often use COSP™ training content to guide their work with families. RiR staff maintain a master list of COSP™-certified facilitators. The master list does not include information on facilitators’ background or education because COSP™ certification does not include requirements in these areas, but many facilitators are licensed mental health practitioners, with most of the remainder coming from the home visiting and early intervention sectors.
RiR offers supports for COSP™ facilitators, which include newsletters and a website with COSP™ resources, including annual evaluation reports. Additionally, facilitators are offered the opportunity to participate in two forms of consultation. Fidelity coaching is the more intensive and involves the use of a fidelity diary by the facilitator. Fidelity coaching is offered by one coach in the state to five facilitators at a time and consists of 90-minute weekly sessions over nine weeks. Facilitators apply for fidelity coaching and must have facilitated two programs previously. If there are more applicants than slots, priority is given to providers that represent the state geographically and those who have participated in COSP™ peer reflective consultation training. The coaching is free to facilitators and funded by RiR.
The other form of consultation is offered by three consultants, who are licensed mental health practitioners with training in Facilitating Attuned Interactions (FAN) reflective consultation. FAN training is designed to increase providers’ awareness of parent concerns and capacity to collaborate with parents. These consultants offer drop-in reflective consultation sessions via Zoom web conferencing every two weeks, typically with 8-10 facilitators participating.
COSP™ Programs are most often wholly funded by the organization sponsoring the course, and in these cases the course will be free to all participants or a nominal fee may be charged to those not referred by the sponsoring organization. While there is some variation across the state, facilitators are typically paid $1,200 for each COSP™ Program they lead. Organizations that deliver COSP™ are funded by a variety of federal, state, and private funds. Examples have included federal Part C and Title IV-B child welfare funding, state Behavioral Health Region funds, and state education funds.
While some facilitators had to cover the cost of COSP™ training, others had fees partly or completely paid by other sources. For the first training cohort, the state’s Part C program awarded scholarships covering half the cost to 80 participants who applied for the scholarships as members of community teams. Additionally, many facilitators had training costs covered in whole or in part by their employers (for example university extension or public health agency home visiting programs), or offered to lead a number of subsequent courses for half-price to sponsoring organizations in return for covering the training.
The Buffett Early Childhood Fund provides the funding that RiR uses to support the state-level coordination and reflective consultation. Nebraska’s COSP™ State Leadership Team continues to evaluate what additional supports might be helpful, such as expanded fidelity coaching. Some sponsoring organizations are exploring public and private grants to fund fidelity coaching for their facilitators. The state’s Part C program supports the state COSP™ website.
Monitoring and Evaluation
A randomized controlled trial of COSP™ in Head Start found positive effects on children’s executive function and maternal response to child’s distress [See Parenting Programs Research Summary for more information on COSP™]. The Washington State Institute for Public Policy, a publicly-funded organization that identifies evidence-based policies by conducting benefit-cost analyses, estimates COSP™ produces benefits valued at $587 per participant.
All COSP™ facilitators and sponsoring organizations are encouraged to submit data on the classes they offer to the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation, which publishes an annual evaluation report on COSP™ (though the reports will be published biannually starting in 2021). The report is based on data collected from programs on the attendance and characteristics of participants. Participants also complete a 9-item survey at the end of the COSP™ Program that asks them about changes in their parenting stress, parent-child relationship, and parenting skills from the beginning to the end of the course. Facilitators complete a survey that covers session logistics and allows them to provide feedback on the session and on their experience with reflective consultation.
Only classes with funding from certain sources (e.g., Nebraska Children and Families Foundation and the state’s child welfare division) are mandated to submit data. Findings from the 2018 evaluation report come from 63 COSP™ Programs delivered to 420 participants. Ninety percent of the participants were parents, and 80 percent were female. On average, parents had three children; 36 percent had a preschool-age child and 37 percent had an infant or toddler. The state coordinator estimates that between 80 and 100 COSP™ Programs are offered each year, although definitive information about this is lacking.
The 2018 evaluation report also describes significant, positive changes in participants’ perceptions of their relationships with their child and parent-child interactions. Parents also report less stress and greater confidence in parenting. The report also notes that COSP™ facilitators “reported that the reflective consultation helped them understand the COSP™ concepts, identify areas that they struggled [with] and overall was beneficial to them as it helped them to improve their practices.”
While the evaluation report data do not reflect child outcomes, the state’s child welfare division has looked at cases of substantiated abuse and neglect among COSP™ families. Of the 85 families referred to COSP™ in the first nine months of 2019, only one had a subsequent substantiated finding of abuse or neglect.
Special thanks to the following individuals for providing information for and reviewing this profile: Amy Bunnell, Early Childhood Special Education Supervisor, Nebraska Department of Education, and at the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation, Sami Bradley, Assistant Vice President of Early Childhood Mental Health, and Lynne Brehm, Associate Vice President of Early Childhood Mental Health.