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Staff Spotlight: Kathleen Hickey, Promoting First Relationships

Lidia Harding
Blog Early Childhood Behavioral Health Q&A Staff Spotlight
Promoting First Relationships Kathleen Hickey

Kathleen Hickey has been with Youth Eastside Services (YES) for the past 19 years. She has been closely involved with the YES Early Childhood Behavioral Health (ECBH) program.  Kathleen works with infants, toddlers and their parents, using the “Promoting First Relationships” (PFR) model. We sat down with Kathleen to learn more about her history with YES and her passion for working with new families.

Please tell me a little about yourself and the work that you have done here at YES?

My interest working with parents of young children evolved from my work in the Head Start program, the  federal preschool and family support program. I saw many families struggle with how to positively parent their children, and I felt a calling to work with new parents and offer them support and information. The work has allowed parents to learn about their baby’s needs and how to meet those needs, and nurture and support their child’s healthy development.

Tell me more how Healthy Start began, and how it evolved as part of YES services?

Healthy Start began as a collaboration of four area youth and family service agencies and was created as a response to the increasing pregnancy rates among Eastside teens in the early 1990’s. A task force of over 20 human services leaders was established with funding from the King County Children and Family Commission. The agencies (Children’s Home Society, Friends of Youth, Northshore Youth and Family Services, and YES) hired the first program manager, with the goal of providing parenting education, child development information and community resources and referrals to young, first-time parents. The first Eastside Healthy Start families were enrolled and served in February 1994. In 2003, the Healthy Start teams received training in the Parents as Teachers (PAT) curriculum for home visitors. YES counselors and the Healthy Start staff worked in close collaboration, as we were able to integrate clients to necessary services within the agency. Our staff is very happy to be a part of the new YES Early Childhood Behavioral Health program and to provide services to new parents using the Promoting First Relationships in-home curriculum.

What are some of the key skills new parents learn from YES Promoting First Relationships (PFR) program?

Parents learn ways to create an environment that benefits their child’s social and emotional well-being. They will build skills around recognizing their baby’s cues and effectively responding to them. Parents gain understanding about some of the challenging behaviors that infants and toddlers demonstrate, and that the behavior is driven by feelings and needs. They can practice techniques that allow them to stay calm and connected to their child. We help them develop plans to meet their child’s needs, and strategies that will encourage their child to cooperate.

Who is the PFR program for?

PFR is for any parent who wants to build a great relationship with their young child and learn how to meet the social and emotional needs of their infant or toddler. If a child has experienced sleeping or eating difficulties, is having challenges in their primary relationships, or has been exposed to trauma or stress, the child and parent can benefit greatly from the PFR program.

How has your life prepared you/inspired you with the work you do at YES?

As a first-time parent, I felt isolated. I needed to build a new group of friends who were also new parents, because my old friends weren’t having those experiences yet. I would have loved to meet with a friendly, knowledgeable and resourceful home visitor to gain perspective and insight on my new role. Now, I hope to be that helpful resource for other parents that are facing the same feelings of isolation.

What do you like to do outside of your work?

I enjoy being active outside and spending time with friends and family. I love the Northwest summers and growing vegetables. I am looking forward to going snowshoeing for the first time this year! I also love to cook new recipes and to bake bread.

If you could tell anything to new parents, what would you like them to know?

Take care of yourself, so you can then take care of your baby. Ask for help, seek good information, be vulnerable.


YES has a comprehensive set of programs dedicated to promoting healthy development in children through positive parent-child relationships for children age birth-6. Through evidence-based practices like Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) and Promoting First Relationships (PFR), clinically trained therapists and home-visiting staff address behavior and emotional issues, as well as ensure children are meeting developmental milestones.

Read how Laura and Maya benefited from YES Parent-Child Interaction Therapy.

If you think these programs would be a benefit to you and your family, or someone you may know please contact Director Jackie Bui at jackieb@youtheastsideservices.org

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