Collaborators from the University of Florida’s Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies and Florida State University’s Communication and Early Childhood Research and Practice Center have received $3,799,856 from the U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences (IES) to examine Florida Embedded Practices and Intervention with Caregivers (FL-EPIC).

FL-EPIC provides professional development for early intervention providers that includes practice-based coaching on the use of a home visiting checklist that supports parents embedding interventions for their child within t everyday routines and activities. The four-year study, titled “Initial Efficacy Trial of Florida Embedded Practices and Intervention with Caregivers,” will be a large-scale project to examine the impact of FL-EPIC. The collaborators will examine if the families and children whose early intervention providers receive professional development to use FL-EPIC home visiting practices have better outcomes compared to early intervention providers who are using traditional home visiting practices.

“Traditionally during home visits, early intervention providers delivered services directly to the child,” said Brian Reichow, principal investigator, Anita Zucker Center member and UF associate professor. “FL-EPIC emphasizes early intervention providers coaching caregivers on how to embed learning opportunities into families’ everyday routines and activities.”

“The transdisciplinary coaches and providers who participate in FL-EPIC are not researchers by trade, they are community providers, which makes their engagement in the study and its findings immediately relevant,” Mollie Romano, co-principal investigator from FSU, assistant professor and director of the Communication and Early Childhood Research and Practice Center, added. “The results will show what is possible with structured supports for professional development, including coaching, on evidence-based home visiting practices in real world programs.” 

Along with Reichow and Romano, Patricia Snyder, UF Distinguished Professor and David Lawrence Jr. Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Studies, Juliann Woods, FSU professor emeritus and founder of the Communication and Early Childhood Research and Practice Center, Matthew Gurka, UF professor, Anita Zucker Center member and associate director of the Institute for Child Health Policy and Patrice Iatarola, FSU associate professor in the College of Education, are members of the research team.

Leveraging established partnerships with the Florida Department of Health’s Children’s Medical Services Early Steps program, the study will work with local Early Steps programs to identify 108 early intervention providers and up to 540 caregiver/child dyads to participate in the project. Half of early intervention providers will learn to use FL-EPIC practices right away while the others will conduct typical early intervention services for nine months before learning and beginning to use FL-EPIC. 

“We are very pleased to have this support from IES to examine FL-EPIC outcomes for Florida’s early intervention providers, families and children,” said Patricia Snyder, Anita Zucker Center director and co-principal investigator. “The sustained and collaborative partnerships we have built throughout our state have set a foundation for this important project.” 

“The collaborations that led to this award realizes a vision we had for how to integrate research, practice and policy,” added Juliann Woods, co-principal investigator.

FL-EPIC was adapted from the IES-funded EPIC development and innovation project, led by Woods, Snyder and their colleague Christine Salisbury from the University IL-Chicago intervention (R324A130121), to enhance its contextual fit in Florida. The teams at UF and FSU have been working with Florida’s Early Steps (the statewide Part C IDEA provider) for a number of years to integrate Florida Embedded Practices and Intervention with Caregivers (FL-EPIC) Early Steps Professional Development (ESPD) with coaches and community-based providers in local programs.

“Determining the effectiveness of FL-EPIC within the Florida Early Steps program is important for Florida and beyond,” said Gurka, biostatistician in the College of Medicine and co-principal investigator.

The cost-effectiveness study has the potential to help policymakers and advocates understand the investments needed to change practices within a system, and what the benefits are for providers, children and families. 

Reichow shared that not only will this project provide information about the effectiveness of FL-EPIC in the state of Florida, but it may also inform early intervention practices across the country. 

“We hope this project will demonstrate the benefits of using a caregiver coaching model for early intervention services,” he said. “Because this project will involve a large number of providers, families and children, we believe it has the potential to have a significant impact on the field and therefore the lives of children and families.”

University of Florida

Brian Reichow, Ph.D. 

Patricia Snyder, Ph.D. 

Matthew Gurka, Ph.D. 

Florida State University

Mollie Romano, Ph.D. 

Juliann Woods, Ph.D. 

Patrice Iatarola, Ph.D.