OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Parent Advisor / Pediatrician Alliance

Building the competence and confidence of parents by embedding early childhood specialists in pediatric care teams.

Photo of Jim Vanides

Written by

Updates: How has your idea changed or evolved throughout the Prize? What updates have you made to this submission? (1500 characters)

[Update] In consideration of current pediatric practices, we are learning to align the language we use to describe our concept to the way clinics describe their sector. One pediatrician we interviewed described a successful collaboration with a Social Worker who is considered another specialist in their practice. As such, we’ve replaced “experts” with “specialists”, as we describe the early childhood professionals. [Update] At the suggestion of our mentor, we developed a diagrammatic explanation of how a pediatric care team and the Early childhood specialists collaborate to provide their unique yet complementary expertise to parents (see new pitch deck PDF, below) [UPDATE] In creating a storyboard scenario (and subsequent 3 min video) of the experience, we realized that there may need to be additional ways for the EC specialists to be introduced to the parents, not necessarily during pediatric visits; as such, we created a scenario where the pediatrician introduces specialists to a GROUP of parents at an event hosted by the pediatrician. This provides a more efficient way to introduce the specialists while still retaining the credibility of a direct introduction via one's pediatrician. [UPDATE] We continue to explore how this model may be the same or needs modification in order to serve underserved communities and/or families with children who have special needs. [UPDATE] We spoke with an LCSW embedded with a pediatric care team and received affirmation about our concept and helpful details about the model of his practice (see the "Business Viability section below" for more details] [UPDATE] We spoke with a medical group's Health Education manager, and she also affirmed the concept and its feasibility; she will be introducing us to their Innovation Unit for further discussions about the business model [UPDATE] We are exploring a NEW idea for funding this via Employee Assistance programs paid by employers

Name or Organization

This initiative is proposed by a team of early childhood and education experts. Bev Hartman, M.A., is the founder of EngagED Early Education & facilitates professional development. Bev serves as an adjunct faculty member of Pacific Oaks College. Janet Vanides, M.A., is an early educator and Director at Palo Alto Friends Nursery School. Jim Vanides, M.Ed, is an experienced program manager with specific expertise in learning, design and technology. He teaches teachers online for Montana State U.


San Francisco Bay Area, California, USA

What is your stage of development?

  • New Innovator, with less than one year of experience in ECD


  • Team

What is the stage of your proposal?

  • Research & Early Testing: I am exploring my idea, gathering the inspiration and information I need to test it with real users.

Describe how your solution could be a game-changer for your selected Opportunity Area (600 characters)

First-time parents, and those facing new or special circumstances, will have hundreds of questions and despite the plethora of online resources, often are unsure which sources can be trusted. This can be complicated when first-time parents lack the benefit of local extended family or peers with the experience and expertise to help. A close collaboration between early childhood experts with pediatric care teams in clinics and hospitals gives first-timers ready access to trusted experts who can help build much needed confidence and competence during the first 3 years of a child’s life.

Select an Innovation Target

  • Service: A new or enhanced service that creates value for end beneficiaries.

Tell us more about your innovation (1500 characters)

We aim to provide first-time parents with access to credible parenting advice from a trusted source. First-time parents, and those facing new/special circumstances, are often exhausted and overwhelmed by the early stages of raising a young child. Some may not know where to turn for advice, or may be overwhelmed by the plethora of information online. A trusted, personal “advisor” can mean a world of difference. But if an experienced friend or grandparent is not part of one’s network, where do you start? By creating a close partnership between early childhood specialists with pediatric care teams, parents are introduced to a real person on Day One - someone they can contact for non-medical questions… someone they can trust as part of the professional support their pediatric care team provides. Parent Advisors are expert early childhood educators with degrees in child development and/or human development with a focus on children and families. After an initial face-to-face introduction, they are available for scheduled meetings in person or via webcam to discuss questions that arise in the early phases of parenting.

What problem are you aiming to solve? (3 sentences)

First-time parents often lack expertise in parenting, relying instead on their own childhood memories or unreliable advice from family and friends. First-time parents are also easily overwhelmed by either too much information, or lack of access to high quality information. Similarly, parents facing new or special circumstances may already feel confident with their earlier parenting experience, but now find a need for guidance that is specific to their new challenges.

Explain your idea (5000 characters)

[UPDATE] For a quick introduction, see our short (3min) video "storyboard" that shows how this idea helps a parent address a specific example "parenting challenge": What is it - The Parent Advisor Pediatrician Alliance provides early childhood expertise to parents through their existing pediatric care team. More specifically, it is: * A service that provides ready access to personal and personalized parenting advice for first-time parents (or parents facing new or specialized circumstances) * A network of early childhood development experts who hold a BA in child development, or human development with an emphasis on families and children, and a certificate in parenting education; or, an MA in early childhood development or related field. * An online repository of resources curated by the network of Parent Advisor experts, e.g. reading, videos with guidance from experts, tips and interviews with real parents * A private online community for the Parent Advisors, with standards of “practice” and discussions about how to curate credible resources and share a consistent, research-backed point of view What it is not - It is not medical advice and does not provide medical diagnostics (but could recommend care from their medical team). Specifically, it is not: * psychological counseling * “just more information” from someone they’ve never met How it works - To build trust and credibility, the Parent Advisor service relies on human contact with a trusted expert. The “first meeting” between an Advisor and a parent is always in-person, usually during an early well-baby visit with the pediatrician. As parenting questions or challenges arise, parents may contact their Parent Advisor to schedule a personal meeting, in-person or via webcam. [UPDATE] We learned that the first contact may more likely be a followup to a well-baby appt, not during. Example Scenario - “My baby is having trouble sleeping when we want to sleep!” 1) Parent raises this concern/complaint at a well baby visit 2) Pediatrician rules out medical causes 3) Pediatrician or nurse refers parent to their Parent Advisor, who they met during an earlier visit (or is introduced to a Parent Advisor) 4) Parent reserves a time to meet with a Parent Advisor (in person or “face”-to-face via webcam (or the parent can make an appointment with another Parent Advisor) Roles and responsibilities - Parent Advisors help parents understand and navigate the challenges of early parenting. While any medical needs are referred directly to the medical team for assessment and treatment, the Parent Advisors provide supportive guidance when parents face situations such as: * “My baby seems to have no schedule! I’m exhausted…” * “How do I choose a day-care or nursery school?” * “What toys help my child grow? When are tablet apps helpful - or not?” The Pediatrician and other medical care team members continue in their role providing medical assessments and treatments. For non-medical parenting questions, the medical team points parents to the Parent Advisor who are available by appointment. The Business Model (TBC) - The business model for the Parent Advisor Pediatrician Alliance needs to be tested and refined. Most likely the model itself will be piloted in a forward-thinking clinic where the medical care team values collaboration with a variety of experts, and has systems in place to easily incorporate referrals. This model also aligns best with institutions that see the competitive value of providing this kind of unique support to parents. As the service is not a “medical necessity” by definition, it is unlikely that medical insurance will reimburse the cost of Parent Advisors. While Parent Advisors may ultimately be hired as clinic staff, more likely it will be viewed as a collaboration with independent consultants or a contract with an “expert network”. As the early funding will be grant-supported, the contract network will most likely be a non-profit, or a project within an existing non-profit entity (a community foundation or a clinic’s existing foundation). Basic services to parents (a short initial introductory meeting, followed by up to 30 minutes per month) would included in the basic budget. Additional meetings, services, or workshops could be provided to parents for a modest cost-recovery fee. Technology - While initial meetings need to be in-person, it may be more convenient and practical for parents and Parent Advisors to meet “face” to face via webcam (Facetime, Hangout, Skype, etc). Additional technology use includes: * Scheduling meetings via web-based services (e.g. * Hosting curated resources on a members-only website * Opt-in newsletters (e.g. * Hosting a private “professional community of practice” for Parent Advisors

Who benefits? (1500 characters)

Parents will benefit from an increase in understanding, practical skills, and confidence. Extended families will shift toward these positive techniques, and peers will notice and make use of the modeling of these quality interactions/patterns. Pediatric care teams and clinics gain precious time for (and reduce the cost of) medical care. Most importantly, infants and toddlers benefit from the enhanced care and support from their parents and their medical care providers. Indirectly, early healthy parenting can be a significant factor in reducing crime and incarceration, benefiting communities as a whole. Child development strategies and tools can interrupt dysfunctional cycles of parenting. Bev and Janet have many years of experience working directly with parents as early education advisers, teachers, and mentors.

What kind of impact will your idea have? (1500 characters)

Eventually the community will embrace these practices and elevate the view of babies and young children in this culture. The parenting advisor is able to guide the parent toward best practices in strategies that result in responsive care. The quality of the infant's early experiences enable the establishment of trust. This is the foundation for healthy emotional development. It is also how babies learn to socialize within the immediate family. As the newborn develops the parent learns the nuance of the signals and how to communicate. Interests begin to emerge through observation and parents can begin to play with the infant. Establishing the routines, patterns and transitions that help the baby to know what to anticipate and participate may lead to parenting challenges. Ongoing advising will support the parent in learning strategies and techniques to use that can be used to fortify the family function. Early emotional and social foundations are vital for well-being. Parenting Advisors can’t make parenting less complicated, but they can help parents experience less stress and encourage more love.

How does or how could your idea impact low-income children? (1500 characters)

Families of means in general have the social capital to find expertise and the financial resources to pay for it out of pocket. This program aligns well with the needs of low income families who find that their primary source of expertise is their pediatrician - whose services are likely covered by other programs. This concept, once in place, could level the "expertise" playing field so that ALL families have access to the parenting advice they need. Knowledge of child development and a "tool box" full of strategies are good for all parents to utilize. A strong emotional and social bond will help parents guide the needs of their infants and toddlers. The quality of the relationship and ability to play may provide a balance while parents meet the challenges of a limited income.

Innovation: What makes your concept innovative? (5000 characters)

This concept makes Early Childhood specialists part of an integrated pediatric care team. This complements and strengthens the current practice of answering parents' parenting questions by referring parents to external resources, or parents pursuing answers on their own from internet sites, peers, or family.

Scale: Describe how your idea could reach a significant number of end-users. (1500 characters)

Pediatricians at hospitals and clinics may be the first adopters of including Parenting Advisors on their teams because the cost of service may be absorbed into the goal of providing comprehensive service. Once this model is accepted in can transfer to private practices, military systems and medical delivery systems in other countries.

Feasibility: Where are you with understanding the feasibility of your idea? Describe what you’ve done so far and your plans. (3000 characters)

After brainstorming ideas for this challenge we narrowed our interest to emotional and social well-being for infants and toddlers. Support for their parents and families has a gap that has been met for very ill children in hospitals, with advocates in the legal system, and somewhat for children with special needs in some school districts. Identifying the gap was our first step. The team created some scenarios to imagine the types of situations that parents experience. Our experience with families helps us to empathize with parent's circumstances. This helped us to think about how we might make a connection that enables guidance and support within a known context. We also researched the current types of parent educator specializations. [UPDATE] We are beginning to receive input from practicing pediatricians and affirmation of the concept through informal interviews with parents. [UPDATE] We are in discussion with an LCSW (licensed clinical social worker) whose services are now integrated with pediatric care; this is a new and exciting example of the feasibility and viability of including other expertise in the pediatric care team.

Business Viability: How viable is your business model? (5000 characters)

Sustainable funding for this concept depends on understanding the business model of healthcare delivery. We are encouraged to learn about new models of care that integrate a wider range of specialists, such as the integration of a social worker into the pediatric practice at a Sutter Health affiliated clinic. We continue to explore two types of business models, one being a subscription service with a sliding scale, and the other is cost recovery from existing pediatric care services. For Annual Subscription approach, several possibilities have been identified: * various levels of subscription: unlimited, 50 (weekly), or 12 (monthly) visits * Paid by family * Paid by extended family or friends - Gift subscriptions for expectant families * Paid by employers as an employee retention benefit * Family “scholarships” on a sliding scale, funded by community grants, county First Five programs, and/or premium services/workshop fees [Update] Potential Funding Model - Corporate Benefits As we explored a variety of funding alternatives, our IDEO mentor introduced us to an IDEO HR manager responsible for talent recruiting and employee benefits. She explained that companies care about benefits for their employees because: * They compete for talent (and good people want to work for places that have good benefits) * They care about retention and productivity, so they don't want employees to burn out or be overwhelmed by life circumstances * They care about inclusivity, so serving the needs of non-traditional families is important Like many other companies, one form of benefits comes via "Employee Assistance" services. Managed by a third party, the services give employees referrals to professional services (free and discounted). The cost of the "Free" and discount services is bundled into the contract the company has with the EA provider. It’s quite feasible that the service we are proposing could be part of a contracted bundle of services, referred by EA providers. Next step: speak with EA providers who serve corporations or other institutions where the target parents work. [Update] Feedback from an LCSW working with Pediatricians Through conversations with pediatricians, we were introduced to a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who is funded to support a local pediatric clinic. While his focus is primarily mental health, he also gets involved in some “healthy parenting” discussions. He confirmed our proposition that parents seek out advice from pediatricians because of credibility, comfort, and confidentiality ... and also cost (v. paying for private therapy/counseling) For efficiency's sake, much of what he does (and we're proposing) works best with groups. He's a big fan of weekly educational workshops, each with a theme. If there are already educational workshops, then it would be a good place to plug in EC experts. This affirms our video scenario where parents meet EC specialists first at a parent education workshop. He confirmed that webcam contacts (even, perhaps texting) after getting to know someone can really work. IDEA: In addition to collaborating with pediatricians, EC experts could connect with parents via schools (and preschools) - though the cost recovery is unclear; he has spoken at schools on a paid (" we have some left over funds") basis RE: Business Model and value proposition BILLING: Clinics can't bill insurance companies for phone calls from providers (yet), so they prefer he meets with them in person; not sure how this may change as the interest in telemedicine (webcam calls) grows QUALITY: Doctors know their patient's parents need to be heard, and recognize that there isn't time in a 15 or 30 minute visit to adequately address parents' questions. COST: Doctors see the time/cost savings; one pediatrician specifically noted that he was able to add patients to his schedule, resulting in more revenue for that doctor’s practice BRAND DIFFERENTIATION: He has heard of some parents switching pediatric clinics just to get access to his additional services [Update] Feedback from Medical Group Health Educator In this conversation, our proposed concept and assumptions were validated in several ways: She agreed that most pediatricians do not have the time nor the early childhood training to provide in-depth support to parents (exception: there is a new specialty among some med schools that provides parenting training) An example of common practice (precedent) that is more closely aligned to our proposal is the inclusion of lactation experts with pediatric teams. As is the case for an Early Childhood specialist, a lactation expert is not dealing with medical issues - but the doctors appreciate the need and the time-savings effect it has on their own limited appointments with patients. Next Step: She views our proposal as “very doable”, once we find a creative funding model. To that end, she is introducing us to their Innovation Unit

HCD: How have you used human centered design to build or refine your concept? (5000 characters)

We have completed a video "storyboard" which is being shared with parents and pediatricians to facilitate discussions about feasibility and interest. The response has been overwhelmingly positive so far... We have also incorporated initial interviews with parents, pediatricians, as well as a Health Education manager and an LCSW who work within a medical group.

Tell us more about you (3000 characters)

We are parents - and can remember our strong desire to foster a solid foundation for our children's emotional and social development. Knowing "why" this was important was partly instinct and our socialization but our education and experience confirmed it was essential to well-being. We are professionals in Early Childhood - informed not only by our own family experience, we are leveraging our education and experience in the fields of Human Development focused on children and families, and the research foundation in the learning sciences and how people learn. Bev Hartman, M.A., is an ally of children and adults advancing a view of competence. She is the founder of EngagED Early Education and facilitates professional development for educators. Bev serves as an adjunct faculty member of Pacific Oaks College, San Jose Campus, where she shares a congruence of beliefs that education needs to be relational, transformative, and foster self-efficacy. Previously, Bev was at Stanford University as a Lecturer in the Department of Psychology and held administrative and teaching positions at Bing Nursery School. Ms. Hartman also directed the Bing Institute, providing programs for parents and educators, and the 2014 Play Symposium. She has a longstanding interest in how educators design and maintain learning environments that value play, include nature and basic materials, support early literacy, and edify the emotional and social well-being of children. Janet Vanides,M.A., is an early educator at Palo Alto Friends Nursery School. Her graduate research explored the long term, personal impact of childhood play. She entered the field of early education working with toddlers at Bing Nursery School. She was an active community volunteer for many years in a variety of capacities all involving young children and families, including mentoring mothers of young children. Her areas of interest include focused observations of young children at play, emergent curriculum, social and cognitive development of children in free, uninterrupted play, and the creative process in young children. Janet is a member of NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children). She holds a bachelor's degree in speech pathology and audiology and a master's degree in human development with a focus on children and families. Jim Vanides, B.S.M.E. / M.Ed, is an experienced program manager with specific expertise in “learning, design and technology”. He is a design-thinking advocate and has led education innovation initiatives engaging educators from around the world. Jim is also an online instructor for Montana State University, where he teaches for a graduate science education degree program. He holds a BS in Engineering and a MA in Education, both from Stanford University.

Do you have the people and partners you need to do what you’ve described? (600 characters)

While we have a core team with the early childhood expertise represented, we are still building out the idea - and hence the team. The next step is to identify some Pediatricians interested in this team approach for meeting the needs of the families, who are situated in a clinic that has an existing relationship with a Foundation. We will also need some parents with whom we can test the concept, and who are agreeable to giving it a try.

As you consider your next steps, what kinds of help could you use? Is there a type of expertise that would be most helpful? (1800 characters)

It is important for us to conduct interviews to ensure that the gap is real and that this is a service that is welcomed by both Pediatrician and parent. We suspect that for some Pediatricians the time constraints of the appointment schedule may be relieved if the non-medical needs can be referred to the Parenting Advisor on the team. We also want to test our assumption that parents will feel that the Parenting Advisor provides credibility (as opposed to random internet sites) because they are on the Pediatric Team. We also think that the chance to have someone who can listen and provide personalized advice will have value to parents. Our project would also benefit from someone familiar with the business model and funding of pediatric services.

Would you like mentoring support?

  • Yes

If so, what type of mentoring support do you think you need? (1200 characters)

A mentor can help us in several ways. First, providing feedback on the idea and areas where more clarity is required. Secondly, help us strategize on how to best create opportunities to talk with Pediatricians, Pediatric Nurses, Child Life Therapists, Family Engagement Specialists, Parent Mentors and Coaches, and of course, parents...

Are you willing to share your email contact information submitted on OpenIDEO with Gary Community Investments?

  • Yes, share my contact information

Mentorship: How was your idea supported? (5000 characters)

Our mentor is awesome! She helped to expand our thoughts about business models, and encouraged the development of our storyboard.

Updates: How has your idea changed or evolved throughout the Prize? What updates have you made to this submission? (1500 characters)

(duplicate question - see above)

Attachments (1)

EC-P Alliance.pdf

Draft "pitch deck" that describes the idea, with details about the collaboration between the Early Childhood specialists and the Pediatricians.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Moses Mbeseha

This sounds like a great program! What will be the child’s age limit which parents can get advice from pediatricians? Will it just be new-parents of infants, or will there be different sections of the app for different life development stages (i.e. infant, toddler, young child)?

Also, is there/are you envisioning a way to have this app be a website as well? Will parents be able to use this app even if their individual pediatrician isn’t involved with one of the care teams?

Lastly, will you do any community outreach to spread the word about the existence of this app beyond hospitals and word of mouth from pediatricians to new or soon-to-be parents?

Photo of Jim Vanides

Moses Mbeseha Thank you for your feedback and questions!

While this challenge focuses on ages 0-3, it's quite feasible that the Early Childhood specialists could continue to be available through age 6.

You asked about an "app" - Just to clarify, we are not proposing an "app" per-se, but a network of real people to talk to. There would be a web-service for scheduling, and it would be possible to leverage existing webcam tools for communication.

As for offering this service to the public who aren't part of subscribing pediatric practice, I suppose that would be possible - but it isn't the focus of our proposal at this time. If or when the service is available "at large", then an entire marketing strategy would need to be developed for "community outreach" as you describe. We still think that the innovation (the real value) of this concept is that the Early Childhood experts are closely connected to pediatricians, which provides the needed collaboration and credibility.

View all comments