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Dr. Lise Fox Receives $5.5 Million Grant to Improve Young Children’s Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Outcomes

Lise Fox, PhD

Lise Fox, PhD
Professor and CFS Department Chair

Lise Fox, PhD of the University of South Florida’s College of Behavioral and Community Sciences has received $5.5 million from the federal Office of Special Education Programs of the Department of Education to continue to operate a national technical assistance center on positive social, emotional, and behavioral outcomes for young children with or at risk for disabilities. The National Center on Pyramid Model Innovations (NCPMI) will work with state systems, programs, and professionals to implement the early childhood, mental health, and behavioral support practices that promote young children’s social-emotional skill development and reduces challenging behavior.

“We are very excited to have the ongoing support of the Office of Special Education Programs of the Department of Education for this important work," said Dr. Fox. "We have developed a state capacity-building and professional development approach that is highly successful in improving early childhood programs to better support young children and their families. Early childhood education and care programs are struggling to meet the needs of young children who have delays in their social-emotional development, challenging behavior, or have been exposed to trauma. The need for training and systems development has never been greater. We are particularly concerned about having high quality programs where young children with disabilities are included and where teachers use culturally and linguistically responsive practices to nurture all children and support their families.”

A focus for NCPMI is to ensure that practitioners and programs have the skills and resources to provide each and every young child with the care and instruction needed to develop strong social-emotional skills. The NCPMI website provides free materials for families, teachers, and specialists to use to teach social-emotional skills and address challenging behavior and provides training webinars on family support, coaching early educators, using data for decision-making, and state systems building.

“I am proud of the resources we have developed and will be offering in the future. Across the country, we see that early childhood teachers are using our materials to teach children to calm down, interact with others, or solve conflicts with peers. We also have materials for families to use in helping children learn to cope with strong emotions, follow family routines, and use appropriate behavior,” added Dr. Fox.

In addition to disseminating practical materials and training, NCPMI works with state and local systems to implement the Pyramid Model approach. The Pyramid Model provides early childhood programs and schools with a framework for the implementation of promotion practices to help all children thrive in their social-emotional development, prevention practices to support children at risk of challenging behavior or mental health concerns, and interventions for children who have persistent challenging behavior. Currently 32 states have statewide initiatives related to the implementation of this approach.

Dr. Fox will lead a national team of experts who will work directly with states and local programs. These experts are from the University of South Florida, Vanderbilt University, University of Denver, and Georgetown University.

“We have substantial work ahead of us. The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected all families with significant impacts on families of young children. Early educators and Kindergarten teachers are seeing the effects of the pandemic in the behavior of young children in the classroom. We have also seen the use of inappropriate discipline responses to young children with challenging behavior with an alarming number of suspensions and expulsions that are disproportionately occurring with children of color and children with disabilities. We also have a crisis in staffing challenges in early childhood education and care programs. Early childhood educators are feeling stressed, are not adequately compensated, and are leaving the field. While there are challenges, our team is excited to have the opportunity to help states, programs, professionals, and families do better in support of young children. We have an approach that works and that can lead to better outcomes for children. We are excited to continue this important work,” said Dr. Fox.