The Early Years of Working with Young Children & Their Families
I was introduced to young children as a freshman at Loyola University in Chicago where I worked as a work-study student in the Child Guidance Clinic. My first job was to transcribe tapes of a four-year-old child who was in play therapy after the death of her mother. During my time in this position I worked as a research assistant, teaching assistant and also was part of a pilot project that trained undergraduates to be play therapists. The experience provided me with a unique opportunity to observe and interact with young children with an array of different problems. I decided that working directly with children would be my career path and planned on going to graduate school to learn more. During my last year in school I also worked at Evanston Children’s Home with a group of boys ages 10-17 and then became a teacher in a new residential program for children ages 4-17. This group of about 30 children came from all over the state of Illinois and the only thing they had in common was that other residential programs were full and their parents could no longer handle them at home. I also spent a few months after graduation working as a teacher in a Montessori school for children with disabilities in Oak Park Illinois. I was quickly learning that it took quite a while to form a trusting relationship with older children but that preschool children were generally very trusting and open to learning.
My first “real” job after graduating from Loyola was as a child care worker at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago. There were four of us hired in 1971 as the first cohort of child care workers for the new day hospital and residential programs in the Child Psychiatry Division. I worked with preschool groups, adolescent groups and the evening shift for the residential program during my two years of alternative service. It was a wonderful program with a variety of professional staff and lots of volunteers. I witnessed many children making real progress in their growth and development. Staff worked with parents as well as the children. We discussed creating a graduate program to prepare child care workers to be effective milieu therapists.
After two years as a child care worker I went to the University of Connecticut to pursue a graduate degree in Child Development and Family Studies. I continued to be interested in working with young children and did an internship at a Child Guidance clinic and completed a thesis about the development of affect awareness in young children ages 3-5. I continued to work with young children in Chicago as a preschool teacher of young children whose mothers were enrolled in training programs at Dawson Skill Center on the South side of Chicago. I was trained as a play therapist by the Theraplay Institute in Chicago and worked with children in Head Start program who had been identified mental health issues.
I moved to Minnesota in 1975 and found a position as a Toddler teacher at the University of Minnesota Child Care Center. I became involved with child advocacy groups during this time and became a member of Southside Child Care Committee and later a Board member of Greater Minneapolis Day Care Association. I also enrolled in the University of Minnesota as a graduate student in the Social and Educational Future Studies program. Here I held positions as a graduate research and teaching assistant and a year as an Instructor in the Dept of Social and Philosophic Foundations of Education. I loved the field of Future Studies and the opportunity to imagine possible and preferable futures in education and family life. I hoped to find a place to use this way of thinking about and approaching the world as an educator or researcher/planner. I also wanted to continue to work directly or indirectly with children and families.
Early Family Life & Parenthood
During this time I married Jane Ellison who also was involved in Early Childhood Education as a teacher, parent coordinator and community organizer. We had our first child Marisha Emily Palm in 1978 and I worked on my dissertation during nap times for a period of time. I also began work as a parent educator at Powderhorn Parent Project starting in 1978 teaching a class for fathers. I completed my Ph. D. in 1981 and our second child Noah was born in 1982. I worked as Director of the Linkages project at GMDCA for a year before moving to St. Cloud in 1983. . After spending the first 4-5 years of parenthood living in Phillips neighborhood in South Minneapolis moving to St. Cloud was a dramatic change. Our third child, Allison, was born in St. Cloud in 1987. All three children completed K-12 schooling in St. Cloud giving us many opportunities for involvement in the schools and community. I have been fortunate to be able to include my children in a variety of different ways with my work with fathers. They all have spent time at Super Saturday class in St. Cloud and as they outgrew this experience have helped with our Father’s Day Celebration each June. In this process they have been exposed to many wonderful male role models.
St. Cloud State Professor
I began teaching at SCSU in 1983 and taught a combination of graduate and undergraduate classes. Early Childhood Family Education was emerging as a state wide program during these early years and my focus shifted to creating a parenting education licensure program. I had a parent educator license and some experience working as a parent educator. This has continued to be a major focus in my work at St. Cloud State including teaching, research and continuing to develop my own skills as a parent educator. I began doing work as a parent educator in the St. Cloud School District in 1984 and continue to the present time.
I am currently a Professor in Child and Family Studies at St. Cloud State University and teach parent and family education classes and coordinate the parenting education licensure program. He is also a licensed parent educator and coordinates The Dad’s Project, an Early Childhood Family Education program in St. Cloud that focuses on fathers of young children. He has worked with fathers in family literacy programs, incarcerated fathers and fathers of infants As a researcher/practitioner Dr. Palm has studied ethics in parent education, fathers’ perceptions of attachment, parenting education for incarcerated parents, fatherhood and men’s values and moral/religious beliefs and assessment of parent growth in family literacy programs. Dr Palm has published articles and book chapters on fathers and parent education. He is co-author of Fathers and Early Childhood Programs (2004) with Jay Fagan and Group Parent Education: Promoting Parent Learning and Support (2004) with Deborah Campbell.