Infant Family Mental Health
WHAT IS IECMHC?
Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation or IEMHC is an evidence informed, multi-level approach towards the promotion of young children’s (birth to six) social and emotional competencies. The foundation of the IEMCH approach lies in fostering and developing partnerships for the adult caregivers in the life of the child.
There are several types of consultation practices that a consultant can participate in or lead:
- A systemic approach to developing or enhancing social and emotional supports and curriculum through IECMHC services. This approach examines the program constructs; policies, procedures and processes along with group training and collaboration to create a total program construct that fosters the social and emotional development of the young children that it serves.
- Child and Family
- Works directly with a child and family in partnership with their early learning educator and or/home visiting program to build strong collaborative relationships aimed at supporting the family. This approach focuses on the family dynamics and issues directly impacting the family to develop a unified plan for responding using a strengths-based view of the child and family.
- Works with early learning educators and/or home visiting program staff to develop a nurturing, responsive environment with predictable routines and stability in daily life for a child. The goal of the consultation service is to identify ways to improve the function and quality of the classroom or home visiting environment to promote social and emotional activities and outcomes for the child.
- This type of consultation connects agencies and programs together to create family centered practices and incorporate infant and early childhood mental health across systems. This approach requires the leveraging of system leaders and line staff as well to ensure that integration occurs at all levels of all agencies participating.
WHAT DOES AN IECMHC CONSULTANT DO?
The IECMH Consultant seeks to engage and partner with all of the caregivers in the life of each child. He or she does so by working within the framework of the important systems being addressed, such as the classroom, program, home, and/or broader system, to build, strengthen and synchronize the partnership among the child’s family, caregivers and service providers. A more consistent and coordinated approach among these important adults is key to helping address and prevent challenging behaviors and to strengthen the child’s regulatory and coping skills, social, and emotional competencies. At its core, IECMH is a strengths-based approach, and its focus on helping the adults in the child’s life work effectively together for improved outcomes embraces the Family Study Center’s coparenting framework. When successful, the IECMHC service identifies all key caregivers in the young child’s life and enhances, builds and supports the relationships among them to respond together to the child’s needs.
THE FAMILY STUDY CENTER’S COMMITMENT TO IECMH CONSULTATION
The Family Study Center (FSC) has collaborated with national leaders in IECMH theory and practice to introduce IECMH to the Pinellas County service community landscape, and to bring Infant and Early Childhood Consultation services to multiple agencies through a variety of projects, programs and initiatives:
- During the implementation of Pinellas County’s 5-year Project LAUNCH initiative, FSC
leadership worked on both local and state Advisory Councils to help plan and bring
an I-ECMH Collaborative to Pinellas County in 2016
- At the February 2017 annual “Listening to Babies” Workshop, FSC and community partners
collaborated with nationally-recognized trainer Neal Horan from Georgetown University’s
Center for Child and Human Development to provide training for nearly 100 agency partners
on assessing agency readiness for building IECMH practices to promote the health and
mental health of families with infants and toddlers into their agencies.
- The FSC’s Infant Family Center program provides therapeutic services to children from
birth to five, and offers consultation both to families in their homes and to early
childhood programs as needed to augment clinical mental health services.
- Early childhood staff at the FSC also partner with clinicians to provide consultation services in early care and education settings. In 2017, the FSC was awarded dedicated funds by the Florida state legislature to collaborate with community partners on a Midtown Early Care and Education Collaborative that offered IECMHC to six early learning sites in the Midtown area of St. Petersburg. That project has continued through the spring of 2019. (Read more information on the Midtown Project)