With much success, RIAIMH’s May conference brought together nearly 120 professionals to discuss ways to support collaborative practice, training, and professional growth for RI’s infant/early childhood & family workforce, focusing on infant/early childhood mental health. Thank you for all who participated!
The conference started off with Aimee Mitchell (Senior Vice President of Programs and Operations, and Director of Head Start at Children’s Friend) offering her reflections on one of the most basic and powerful elements known to support infant/early childhood mental health—the gaze, that intimate moment of engagement between a parent or caregiver and young child that conveys the specialness of the relationship and the promise of safety and nurturance.
Debbie Weatherston, the Executive Director of the newly formed Alliance for the Advancement of Infant Mental Health®, followed by emphasizing the importance of nurturing the young child’s caregivers by offering relationship based and reflective supports in the form of professional development and reflective supervision. Dr. Weatherston expanded on the benefits of the infant mental health endorsement system and highlighted ways that state systems might leverage endorsement to sustain and support a high quality workforce.
Finally, Kaitlin Mulcahy (Associate Director, Center for Autism and Early Childhood Mental Health at Montclaire State and President of the New Jersey Association for Infant Mental Health) described how NJ has leveraged endorsement, including links with the CSEFEL pyramid model principles.
Conference participants agreed that the workshop was useful and relevant for their professional roles. Many especially found value in learning about the details of the endorsement system and how other states have worked to leverage endorsement. Most participants were excited to learn more about how the endorsement in Rhode Island might be useful for developing professional development and reflective practice opportunities for the workforce. A majority of participants reported that they gained knowledge about the importance of relationship-focused practices to support infants/toddlers and their families and a better understanding of the importance of systems collaboration and coordination in understanding infant/early childhood mental health competency domains. In fact, one participant commented that this endorsement system will give professionals working with babies a “new perspective on how important they are.”
Through survey reviews, over 90% of participants confirmed better understanding of the infant mental health competencies and endorsement system.
The conference ended with much conversation among many different professionals about the potential to collaborate to promote infant/early childhood mental health across programs in RI. The next exciting step will be looking at the results of our survey on how different professionals in infant/early childhood mental health fields described their experiences and training related to this competency-based endorsement system.. This will offer great information to continue the conversation!
In the meantime, we are happy to share information and resources from the conference. See the downloadable links below.
- Expanding Infant & Early Childhood Mental Health Principles & Practices: Exploring What’s Possible
- CIMH Workforce 4.20.15 Mental Health Weekly
- Weatherston-IMH & Competencies in RI 2015
- THE INFANT MENTAL HEALTH WORKFORCE: Key to Promoting the Healthy Social and Emotional Development of Children
- ZTT Contacts and Resources