Our Roles and Biographies

Susan J. Spieker, PhD Executive Director

Susan SpiekerSusan specializes in applied research related to early parent-child relationships and child development in families stressed by adverse economic and social circumstances. She is a professor in the department of Family and Child Nursing at the University of Washington and serves as the Director of the Barnard Center on Infant Mental Health and Development, a partnership between the School of Nursing and the Center on Human Development and Disability. The Barnard Center on Infant Mental Health and Development promotes interdisciplinary research, education and practice related to the social and emotional development of children during the first five years.

Susan has been actively engaged in research on attachment for over 25 years. She has examined the effects of maternal depression and trauma, adolescent childbearing, and early child care experience on the quality of infant attachment, and the influence of early attachment quality on later behavior problems and social competence. Most recently, she and her colleagues have been involved in a program of research on promoting social and emotional well-being for infants, toddlers, and their caregivers involved in the child welfare system. She teaches in the School of Nursing’s interdisciplinary Graduate Certificate Program in Infant Mental Health.

Jennifer Rees, MSW Program and Training Director

Jennifer ReesJennifer manages Promoting First Relationships’ community and distance training programs. She is responsible for curriculum and program development, assuring program fidelity, providing on-site and distance training to community agencies, facilitating reflective practice groups, and reporting duties. Jennifer graduated with honors from the University of Washington with her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology, and later went on to obtain her Master of Social Work degree. She spent the early part of her career working with children and families as a Research Coordinator for the NICHD Study of Early Childcare and Youth Development, as well as counseling teens and their families in school settings. Jennifer also has experience in vocational rehabilitation and physical therapy. Her projects with Promoting First Relationships have included training childcare providers, mental health professionals, social workers, occupational and speech therapists, and early childhood education professionals. Jennifer most recently assisted in developing PFR’s new distance learning training curriculum including training videos, manual and methods of training. She cares deeply about supporting parents in a strengths-based way and helping them have a positive, connected relationship with their child.

Julie Nagel, LICSW Lead Trainer

Julie NagelJulie is an Early Childhood Consultant for the Promoting First Relationships program. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Social Work from Western Michigan University in 1983. In 1986 she received her Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She graduated from the certificate program in Infant Mental Health from the University of Washington in August, 2003. Since receiving her Master’s degree, she has worked primarily in the mental health field; her roles have included: Intensive Day Treatment therapist with 2-5 year old children, child and family therapist, coordinator of the Interagency Coordinating Council, coordinator of the Snohomish County Child Study Teams, and collaborator on federal grant projects focusing on implementation of Public Law 99-457. Julie was also a mental health consultant for the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program, and served as a consultant with the Snohomish County Success By Six Project.

Jean F. Kelly, PhD, (Emeritus)

Jean KellyJean directed research and training programs focused on young children’s social and emotional health for 25 years. Jean developed the Promoting First Relationships Program, and is currently professor emeritus in the department of Family and Child Nursing at the University of Washington. She was also the Co-Director of the Center on Infant Mental Health and Development, a partnership between the School of Nursing and the Center on Human Development and Disability. Her interest in promoting the parent/caregiver-child relationship began in the late 1970’s with her dissertation work using videotaped feedback to promote the relationship between parents and their young children with developmental delays. Since that time, she conducted research and developed programs for families and infants and toddlers who are homeless, enrolled in early intervention programs for young children with special needs, and participants in Early Head Start programs. She was also involved in research and training efforts to improve the relationship quality of child care programs and grandparent-child dyads. Her research and training efforts in the years before her retirement focused on promote healthy relationships between parents, foster parents and therapeutic child care providers who care for children involved in the child welfare system. She taught in the Department of Family and Child Nursing and the Irving B. Harris Graduate Certificate Program in Infant Mental Health at the University of Washington.

Colleen O. Dillon, PhD Clinical Director

Colleen DillonColleen is a licensed clinical psychologist and Director of Training at the Center on Infant Mental Health and Development (CIMHD), a partnership between the School of Nursing (SON) and the Center on Human Development and Disability (CHDD) at the University of Washington. Primarily involved in teaching and program development for the Graduate Certificate Program in Infant Mental Health, Colleen also participates in the CHDD Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) training program. She received her MA/PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Massachusetts, Boston and completed her APA clinical psychology internship in the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, School of Medicine, University of Washington. Additional years of post-doctoral training at CIMHD yielded a graduate certificate in infant mental health, as well as more experience in infant-parent assessment and psychotherapy. During this time she also served as an Associate Member of the MacArthur Research Network on the Transition to Adulthood. Informed by a life course approach, her work has focused on understanding and supporting healthy adaptation in the context of higher risk developmental transitions, with a particular interest in the transition to parenthood for adolescents/young adults.

Monica Oxford, PhD Research and Evaluation Director

Monica is a Research Associate Professor in the School of Nursing at the University of Washington and the Director of NCAST Programs, an organization that develops and disseminates research-based practice originating from the Department of Family and Child Nursing and the Center on Human Development and Disability. Dr. Oxford is also a Promoting First Relationships-trained Early Childhood Consultant, and her area of research focuses on parenting and child outcomes for vulnerable families living in challenging contexts. Dr. Oxford is interested in how context, child characteristics, and parenting practices combine to inform particular patterns of child outcomes and how intervention practice impacts to promote both parent and child well-being.