Just Beginning (JB) Program

About This Program

Target Population: Noncustodial young incarcerated fathers of children between the ages of 2 months and 3 years; can also be used with incarcerated young mothers

For children/adolescents ages: 0 – 3, 15 – 19

For parents/caregivers of children ages: 0 – 3, 15 – 19

Program Overview

The Just Beginning (JB) Program is a structured visitation program designed specifically for young noncustodial fathers, particularly those in juvenile or criminal justice facilities with the goals of building and strengthening the relationship between father and child. JB can also be used with young incarcerated mothers. JB programming and visitation can also been done virtually. JB aims to enhance the quality of interactions, foster secure attachments, and maintain strong bonds with the child as well as encourage communication with the child's primary caregiver. The program consists of five 60-90 minutes sessions, during which a JB-certified facilitator helps the father to master four key skills:

  • Noticing the child's signals and cues
  • Following the child's lead
  • Talking to the child
  • Encouraging and praising the child

Embedded within each session is a visit between the parent and the child during which the father practices these skills.

Program Goals

The goals of the Just Beginning (JB) Program are:

  • Enhance the quality of father-child interactions
  • Foster secure attachments in order to build, maintain strong bonds over time
  • Encourage communication with the child's other caregiver(s)

Logic Model

The program representative did not provide information about a Logic Model for Just Beginning (JB) Program.

Essential Components

The essential components of the Just Beginning (JB) Program include:

  • The JB program is fully manualized in both English and Spanish. Additional materials are also provided via Google drive including webinars on specific topics.
  • This psychoeducational program is comprised of 5 sessions which each last 60-90 minutes. The frequency and intensity of the program was designed with adolescents in mind. A refresher is incorporated in every session and skills build upon one another across the intervention. In addition, the experience-based learning component (play sessions) and subsequent debrief reinforces these skills.
  • JB is designed to be repeated with fathers who are incarcerated for extended periods, so can extend for a year or more. This is because the key components can be practiced with children at different ages.
  • Each session consists of three components:
    • Parent Learning:
      • The father and a trained certified facilitator meet one-on-one. The facilitator introduces the father to the session concept.
      • The father and facilitator watch a short video from Sesame Beginnings. Each JB concept has a corresponding video. The content was specifically developed for parents to model positive parenting skills. This use of media is designed to be a strengths-based approach since many adolescents are very familiar with media content and it also reduces literacy demands for a population that can encounter learning or reading difficulties.
      • The father and the facilitator discuss the videos with guided questions. The videos illustrate the concept introduced and lay the groundwork for father-child play session.
      • The father summarizes the session with the facilitator and picks a toy to bring into the play session.
    • Father-Child Play:
      • The father joins his child in a child-friendly play space.
      • The father practices the new concepts while he plays with his child.
      • The facilitator observes the play session.
    • Debrief:
      • After the play session, the facilitator and father discuss the positive interactions and how this can continue at the next visit.
  • Features of this program include:
    • The use of onsite facility or program staff to provide training to parent
    • The incorporation of structured visits/play sessions and hands on practice into the training
    • Use of Sesame Street videos as examples
    • Suitable for use with incarcerated teen and young adult parents who have limited contact with their children
    • A habilitative tool (i.e., tool that helps improve skills and functioning for daily living) for parents involved with the justice system

Program Delivery

Child/Adolescent Services

Just Beginning (JB) Program directly provides services to children/adolescents and addresses the following:

  • Teen who is in juvenile or criminal justice facility and parenting a young child; children who are 2 months to 3 years of age and at-risk of behavior issues, educational delays, and other negative developmental outcomes in addition to abandonment, child abuse, and neglect

Parent/Caregiver Services

Just Beginning (JB) Program directly provides services to parents/caregivers and addresses the following:

  • Noncustodial father of young child (2 months to 3 years of age) with limited experience in parenting and often had little or no relationship with their own fathers and might be at risk of abandoning, abusing, or neglecting their children.
Services Involve Family/Support Structures:

This program involves the family or other support systems in the individual's treatment: Facilitators receive training on how to conduct a co-parent orientation for the parent not in the JB Program including a step-by-step guide as part of the JB manual. This orientation is designed to help the co-parent to understand the value of the skills the noncustodial parent will learn through the program so that they will support that parent's involvement. The goals of the co-parent orientation are: Build rapport with the co-parent and promote engagement of the child in the JB Program Share information about the program with the co-parent so that they and the noncustodial parent are a team in implementing the program's key concepts with their child Promote the co-parent's support of the noncustodial parent's efforts at staying involved with his child in the future

Recommended Intensity:

Sessions lasting 60-90 minutes (including a parent-child play session) that can be scheduled as frequently as once per week but are designed to respond to institutional needs so they can be separated by up to once a month.

Recommended Duration:

5 to 20 weeks; on average, the initial program lasts for 5 weeks but it can be repeated.

Delivery Settings

This program is typically conducted in a(n):

  • Community-based Agency / Organization / Provider
  • Group or Residential Care
  • Justice Setting (Juvenile Detention, Jail, Prison, Courtroom, etc.)
  • School Setting (Including: Day Care, Day Treatment Programs, etc.)


Just Beginning (JB) Program includes a homework component:

During the debrief the facilitator asks the father to think of two actives or play strategies he can try during his next visit.


Just Beginning (JB) Program has materials available in a language other than English:


For information on which materials are available in this language, please check on the program's website or contact the program representative (contact information is listed at the bottom of this page).

Resources Needed to Run Program

The typical resources for implementing the program are:

  • For the structured visit, a child-friendly play space is required. Some facilities and community centers have a dedicated JB space, while others are able to utilize multipurpose spaces and have a pop-up play space kit including play mats, toys, and books that can be assembled and disassembled rapidly and efficiently stored.
  • A private space for father and facilitator training sessions to review video clips and discuss concepts. In many instances, this is the same play space.
  • Video capability for sessions. JB has a media component and each session has a video to illustrate the concepts. An iPad or laptop or DVD player is needed.)
  • During facilitator training and evaluation period, a camera or audio recorder for fidelity monitoring is necessary. An iPad, camera or laptop can be used.
  • Onsite personnel available to be trained to facilitate the program

Manuals and Training

Prerequisite/Minimum Provider Qualifications

There are no minimal educational requirements to become a JB facilitator, however, the JB team recommends experience working with adolescents, experience working in facilities or the environment in which the JB program will be implemented, a background working with either children or young parents; and a commitment and passion for working with young parents.

Manual Information

There is a manual that describes how to deliver this program.

Training Information

There is training available for this program.

Training Contact:
Training Type/Location:

Training is provided onsite or remotely. All training materials including videoclips that are integral to the delivery of the program are available in English and Spanish. Facilitators can be certified to deliver the program in both English and Spanish depending on the parent population.

Number of days/hours:

The initial training takes 2 days. When facilitators have completed the 2-day onsite training, they complete quizzes that assess session content knowledge with 80% accuracy. After the facilitator has passed the content quizzes they recruit a father to participate in JB. With the father's permission, 5 sessions are recorded and shared with the JB trainer. The JB trainer provides explicit feedback to the facilitator based on a structured assessment of content delivery and quality of implementation. This training occurs over a period of 6-8 weeks after the initial 2-day training is designed to ensure all of the following:

  • Facilitators know how to implement the intervention as intended
  • Program staff is committed to the JB curriculum
  • Fathers enroll in the program and remain interested in attending JB with their children
  • Fatherhood programs feel prepared and supported as they carry out the intervention

Each JB site receives a Box (online large document storage/transfer service) and Google Drive account with electronic copies of all JB materials, sample training sessions between facilitators and fathers from other sites, video implementation stories from past sites and contact list of other sites for peer-to-peer implementation support. Additionally, JB staff host quarterly video conferences open to all sites to share challenges and successes.

Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research

Barr, R., Brito, N., Zocca, J., Reina, S., Rodriguez, J. & Shauffer, C. (2011). The baby Elmo program: Improving teen parent-child interactions within juvenile justice facilities. Children and Youth Services Review, 33(9), 1555–1562. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2011.03.020

Type of Study: One group pretest-posttest study
Number of Participants: 23 (Father–infant dyads)


  • Age — Caregivers: 16 years, Infants: 6-36 months
  • Race/Ethnicity — Caregivers: 66% Hispanic, 22% African American, 2% White and 10% Other; Infants: Not specified
  • Gender — Caregivers: 100% Male, Infants: Not specified
  • Status — Participants were recruited from juvenile detention centers.

Location/Institution: Three California counties: Fresno, San Bernardino (three sites), and Sacramento (two sites)

Summary: (To include basic study design, measures, results, and notable limitations)
The aim of this study is to evaluate the Baby Elmo Program [now called Just Beginning (JB) Program] to build a relationship between the teen and his child. Measures utilized were the This is My baby (TIMB) measure and the Emotional Responsiveness measure. Results indicated significant gains in five of six measures of emotional responsiveness with the age of infant as a significant covariate. Limitations include the lack of control group, small sample size, and lack of follow-up.

Length of controlled postintervention follow-up: 3 months.

Barr, R., Morin, M., Brito, N., Richeda, B., Rodriguez, J., & Shauffer, C. (2014). Delivering services to incarcerated teen fathers: A pilot intervention to increase the quality of father–infant interactions during visitation. Psychological Services, 11(1), 10–21. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0034877

Type of Study: One group pretest-posttest study
Number of Participants: 41 (Father–infant dyads)


  • Age — Caregivers: 16 years; Infants: 1-15 months
  • Race/Ethnicity — Caregivers: 66% Hispanic, 22% African American, 2% White and 10% Other; Infants: Not specified
  • Gender — Caregivers: 100% Male; Infants: Not specified
  • Status — Participants were recruited from juvenile detention centers.

Location/Institution: Three California counties: Fresno, San Bernardino (three sites), and Sacramento (two sites)

Summary: (To include basic study design, measures, results, and notable limitations)
This study examined the ability of the Just Beginnings, Baby Elmo Program [now called Just Beginning (JB) Program] to provide incarcerated teen fathers with parenting training and visitation with their children with the stated goal of enhancing father-child interactional quality. The measure utilized was the Individual Growth and Development Indicators for Infants and Children: Indicator of Parent Child Interaction (IGDI-IPCI). Results indicate that there were significant positive increases in the amount of parent support and infant engagement as a function of the number of sessions. Limitations include the lack of control group, small sample size, and lack of follow-up.

Length of controlled postintervention follow-up: None.

Additional References

Brito, N., Barr, R., Rodriguez, J., & Shauffer, C. (2012). Developing an effective intervention for incarcerated teen fathers: The Baby Elmo Program. Zero to Three, 32(5), 26–32. https://elp.georgetown.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Britoetal2012ZTT.pdf

King, S., Woolard, J., & Barr R. (2015). Cost-effective juvenile justice reform: Lessons from the Just Beginning "Baby Elmo" Teen Parenting Program. North Carolina Law Review, 93(5), 1381–1418. https://scholarship.law.unc.edu/nclr/vol93/iss5/9

Richeda, B., Smith, K., Perkins, E., Simmons, S., Cowan, P., Cowan, C., Rodriguez, J., Shauffer, C. & Barr, R. (2015). Baby Elmo leads dads back to the nursery: How a relationship-based intervention for fathers enhances father and child outcomes. Zero to Three, 35(5), 25–35. https://elp.georgetown.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Richeda0515-3-Baby-Elmo-ZTT.pdf

Contact Information

Jennifer Rodriguez, JD
Title: Executive Director
Agency/Affiliation: Youth Law Center
Website: youth.gov/collaboration-profiles/just-beginning
Phone: (415) 543-3370
Rachel Barr, PhD
Agency/Affiliation: Georgetown University
Department: Department of Psychology, Georgetown University
Phone: (202) 687-8064

Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: May 2018

Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: January 2024

Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: June 2018