Infant & Early Childhood Mental Health

A Strong Foundation for Mental Health Begins Early

Healthy brain development is a building process that begins before we are born. Positive experiences and loving relationships create a strong foundation that helps ensure that a child builds the skills necessary for a lifetime of strong mental health. Many children experience developmental delays. Connecting families to community supports and programs helps to ensure that these children get back on track. Investing in practices, policies and services that promote children’s healthy development, and support children who experience developmental challenges, ensures that children build the skills they need to be successful.
Parents and Caregivers:

• Building a health human brain is a process that begins before we are born and continues until a person reaches their mid-20s.
• We ALL have mental health – even babies and very young children. As parents and caregivers, we play a critical role in supporting our children’s mental health. Strong mental health early in life sets children up to have healthy relationships with others and to success in school and in life.
• Brains are built through back-and-forth interaction, much like a game of tennis or volleyball. Healthy development occurs when young children “serve” through babbling, gestures or words, and adults “return” by getting in sync with the child.

If you have concerns or would like to speak to someone about your child’s development, there are a wide variety of resources in our community to support you. Please check out our RESOURCES tab for more information.

Educators:

• Developing social and emotional skills, such as the ability to manage emotions and impulses, is just as important to children’s success as their cognitive and physical development.
• As educators, we have a significant role to play in supporting each aspect of a child’s healthy development by providing opportunities for social and emotional learning in the classroom and intentionally promoting strong partnerships with families.

The Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education supports the promotion of mental health in schools and works with community partners to effectively address behavioral health challenges by connecting families and educators to essential intervention resources.

The Alabama Association for Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health (AAIECMH) was formed in January 2017 and will operate under the name of First 5 Alabama.  During this time, the AAIECMH became a licensed affiliate of the Alliance for the Advancement of Infant Mental Health®, a global organization that includes those states and countries whose infant mental health associations have licensed the use of the Competency Guidelines® and Endorsement® for Culturally Sensitive, Relationship-Focused Practice Promoting Infant Mental Health® under their associations’ names.

Purpose and goals of the Association:

• promote the healthy social, emotional, cognitive, and physical development of children from conception through five years of age through supportive and nurturing relationships;
• facilitate interdisciplinary cooperation among individuals concerned with promoting conditions that will bring about the optimal development of infants and young children;
• encourage the realization that infancy is a sensitive period in the psychosocial development of individuals and to promote education, research, and study of the effects of mental development during infancy on later normal and psychopathological development; and
• promote the education, professional development, and Endorsement® of professionals across multiple disciplines to increase the supply of early childhood mental health consultants to enhance programs of care, intervention, and prevention of mental impairment in infancy and early childhood.

Mission of First 5 Alabama to support cross discipline work:

The mission of First 5 Alabama is to enhance healthy attachment relationships between children birth to age five and the adults who care for them through promotion, prevention, and intervention supports throughout Alabama's early childhood systems.

More information about First 5 Alabama membership and endorsement can be found on their website https://www.first5alabama.org/

What is Infant/Early Childhood Mental Health Endorsement (IMH-E®/ECMH-E®)

Infant/Early Childhood Mental Health Endorsement® is intended to recognize experiences that lead to competency in the infant and early childhood-family field. It does not replace licensure or certification, but instead is meant as evidence of a specialization in this field. IMH-E®/ECMH-E® is a registered trademark that indicates that a person has been awarded Endorsement® by their state’s Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Association, which is a licensed affiliate of the Alliance for the Advancement of Infant Mental Health and meets the Endorsement® criteria. IMH-E® represents work with the birth to 3-year-old child and family, while ECMH-E® represents work with the 3 to 5-year-old child and family.

First 5 Consultation Project:

The first 5 Consultation Project is a combined effort between multiple state agencies that serve children and families. It is unique in that it pairs an infant and early childhood mental health (IECMH) consultant with providers who care for infants, young children, and families to collaboratively provide a problem-solving and capacity-building intervention. While infant and early childhood mental health consultation (IECMHC) is considered an indirect service, it is relationship-based focusing on helping caregivers to effectively support the social and emotional development of children in their care. IECMHC is a holistic approach focusing on the full spectrum of the child’s needs and grounded in the latest developmental theory and research. It is not just for those children identified with mental health or developmental challenges, but for all children and caregivers birth through 5 years.

Currently, the First 5 Consultation Project is present in licensed child care facilities and will soon be available to First Class Pre-K and Early Intervention programs.

Alabama Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health: Harnessing Every Opportunity to Expand Critical Components of the Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health System of Care. Find out more information by clicking here.

EARN A GRADUATE CERTIFICATE IN INFANT AND EARLY CHILDHOOD MENTAL HEALTH FROM TROY UNIVERSITY               

Social and emotional development is something that can be fostered from birth throughout life. However, earlier is always better when addressing problems in these areas for children. If you are someone who has a heart for helping, a love for children and the desire to impact the mental health of our future generations, let Troy University equip you with the skills needed. For more information, click on the link below:

Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Counseling Graduate Certificate

For more information, please contact Dallas Rabig, LPC, IMH-E® at dallas.rabig@ece.alabama.gov or (334) 430-9340.