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Director Selected for HIPPY USA National Research and Evaluation Center to Focus on Early Child Development

Kirsten Ellingsen, PhDThe HIPPY USA National Research Center, housed within the USF Department of Child & Family Studies, has selected a director to oversee a national research strategy in the areas of early childhood/family literacy and early childhood development. Dr. Kirsten M. Ellingsen joins CFS with a background as a clinician and researcher with  more than 15 years involvement in child and family focused research. She is passionate about facilitating the health and development of young children, reducing preventable secondary conditions, and maximizing positive functioning and engagement in daily life for those most vulnerable due to biological or environmental risk.

HIPPY (Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters), a home visiting program that focuses on parent involved early learning, offers services directly to parents, who then work with their own three, four, and five year old children. HIPPY’s mission is to empower parents as primary educators of their children in the home, and foster parent involvement in school and community to maximize the chances of successful early school experiences. It is listed as one of the seven models selected as an evidence-based home visiting model approved for funding under the Affordable Care Act Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program, and includes a network of over 150 home-based, early childhood programs throughout the United States.

“For many years, I have dreamt about creating a true partnership with a university to lead HIPPY research activities,” said Dr. Miriam Westheimer, Director of HIPPY International.  “The idea has been around for a very long time, but it was not until Dr. Mario Hernandez grasped onto it, that the idea became a reality.  Given the creative and multi-disciplinary approach and attitude of the Department of Child and Family Studies, I have no doubt that HIPPY research in the US has found a supportive and invigorating home base.  I wish Dr. Kirsten Ellingsen all the very best and am eager to start working together!”

Dr. Ellingsen’s new duties will include designing and implementing a national research strategy for HIPPY USA, developing collaborative research partnerships with others conducting research, and securing external funding for conducting national research studies.

“Dr. Ellingsen has already hit the ground running by joining with us to discuss research issues and challenges at a joint presentation for the upcoming 25th Annual Children’s Mental Health Research & Policy Conference in March 2012,” said  Dr. Paul J. Wirtz, HIPPY USA Board Member. “In addition, she has already proposed a plan to reach out to HIPPY practitioners and researchers from across the country in the next few months. The HIPPY Board has recognized the need for this center and a lead researcher. We are looking forward to a fruitful and productive relationship with USF and Dr. Ellingsen.

CFS Department Chair Dr. Mario Hernandez said Dr. Ellingsen was selected based on her excellent qualifications. Prior to starting her doctoral program in school psychology at UNC, Kirsten worked as a research analyst within a social science research firm in the greater DC area. She completed a pediatric psychology post doc at A I duPont Hospital for Children focused on early childhood. Her research experience has included working on the the design and implementation of various national evaluations and longitudinal studies including Early Head Start, Even Start, Head Start, and the Early Childhood Longitudinal Studies (ECLS-B and ECLS-K) as well as conducted local program evaluations, statewide needs assessments, and international research using the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health for children and youth (ICF-CY).

"I'm excited about the research possibilities that will come from the establishment of the National Research and Evaluation Center for HIPPY USA. I'm looking forward to collaborating with colleagues at other universities across the country and internationally to create a research and evaluation agenda for HIPPY," said Dr. Ellingsen.

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