Rhode Island Association for Infant Mental Health (RIAIMH) Board members volunteer their time and expertise to support infant mental health education, Endorsement®, advocacy, and clinical research.The Board of Directors provides leadership, vision, stewardship and legal oversight in its governance of RIAIMH. The Board is ultimately responsible for ensuring that RIAIMH has a measurable impact on the betterment of our community in accordance with our mission, that we respond to changing community needs, and that we have the resources necessary to achieve our desired impact. The Board serves as principal fiduciary and wise steward of RIAIMH resources, creates guiding goals and policies, maintains the highest ethical standards, and models our organizational values.
Susan Dickstein, PhD is Associate Professor in the Brown Medical School, Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior and Department of Pediatrics, and Psychologist at Bradley Hospital. For 2 decades, Dr. Dickstein was director of the Bradley Hospital Early Childhood Clinical Research Center (part of the Bradley/Hasbro Children’s Research Center), and collaborated on research within the realm of developmental psychopathology, attachment theory, family risk, maternal depression, and early childhood mental health. Dr. Dickstein is consulting editor for the Journal of Family Psychology and the Infant Mental Health Journal, and developed an online training course, Foundations for Infant/Toddler Social Emotional Health: Provider Modules. Dr. Dickstein is also a licensed clinical psychologist who currently spends time consulting on research and community-based projects that integrate infant/early childhood mental health principles and evidence-based practices, including reflective supervision/consultation strategies. She is a founding member and President of the Rhode Island Association for Infant Mental Health, and is involved at a national level as a member of the World Association for Infant Mental Health, and as a founding partner and Vice President of the Board of the national Alliance for the Advancement of Infant Mental Health. Dr. Dickstein has earned Endorsement® as an Infant Mental Health Clinical Mentor (Level IV).
Emily Pearce-Spence is the Program Manager of the Bristol Warren Parents As Teachers program, an early childhood family visiting program through the Bristol Warren Regional School District. She began with this program as a mother of twins in 1996, started working for the program in 1998, and has been supervising the program since 2012. In 2015 she began her position as the Coordinator for the Bristol Health Equity Zone project, a town-wide grant funded through the Rhode Island Department of Health working towards creating health equity for the residents of Bristol. She also coordinates the Bristol Warren Thrive by Five and Beyond group, a networking group of social service agencies and individuals who work with families in Bristol and Warren. This group offers professional development trainings to its members, and parenting workshops and an annual resource fair to the community.
Sophia Cohen is a developmental psychologist. For more than 20 years, she worked at The Education Development Center (Waltham, MA), supporting elementary school teachers as they learned to build classroom communities in which children's understandings were expressed, heard, and built upon. She has worn a number of hats over the years -- among them: classroom consultant/coach, teacher seminar leader, researcher, and teacher seminar materials developer. In 2010, she began to shift the focus of her work to infancy and the earliest relationships. She took the year-long Infant Observation Course at Jewish Family and Children’s Service in Waltham, MA, and in 2014-2015 she was a Fellow in the 2-year Infant-Parent Mental Health Fellowship program at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Over the past few years, she has been designing and teaching courses about infancy and group care for infants and toddlers for adults working in Early Care and Education (Rhode Island College). At its core, this work is about helping adults who care for young children to better see, hear, and make meaning with the children in their care. Other areas of interest are (a) supporting the learning of other professionals who work with infants and their families (e.g. Social Workers, Early Intervention specialists, etc.); (b) materials development relating to infant mental health; and (c) extending her work with those who work in early care and education to include the parent communities that surround them.
Karen Nolin has been an active part of the Early Childhood community for many years. She became connected with the Rhode Island Association for Infant Mental Health when working in the Early Childhood field and attending trainings. She began her career in Early Childhood as an Educator after graduating from Rhode Island College with a Bachelor of Science in Education. She worked for many years in the Early Head Start and Head Start communities as well as for Early Intervention. She decided to return to college to further her education and received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Rhode Island College. Since becoming a Registered Nurse she has worked in various community and public health settings, including Early Intervention, Nurse Family Partnership and Early Head Start/Head Start. Karen is currently the Health Manager for Early Childhood Services at East Bay Community Action Program (EBCAP), where she oversees the Health and Nutrition Programs and Staff for all six sites in the program. She coordinates and facilitates the Health Services Advisory Committee for the EBCAP Head Start program. Infant Mental Health is a passion that Karen shares and has been fortunate to be able to use in her work in various settings with families with young children.
Jean Twomey, PhD is a clinical social worker who is an Assistant Professor in the Brown Alpert Medical School departments of Psychiatry and Human Behavior and Pediatrics. She has extensive clinical experience in infancy and early childhood. She provides services to families whose infants experience cry and sleep problems through the Infant Behavior, Cry, and Sleep Clinic at Women and Infants Center for Children and Families. Her work as a child and family therapist at the Brown Center for Children also includes outpatient therapy with young children with behavioral and emotional concerns and children, adolescents and young adults with autism spectrum disorders. She treats parental stress and depression, including postpartum depression. Her research interests include parenting abilities of substance-using women, developmental outcomes of substance-exposed infants with child welfare involvement, and the impact of infant regulatory difficulties on parental mental health. In 2010, she was named Social Worker of the Year in Children & Families by the Rhode Island Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. Dr. Twomey has earned Endorsement® as an Infant Mental Health Clinical Mentor (Level IV), an internationally recognized designation.
Laura Mason Zeisler, M.Ed. has been working in the early childhood profession for over forty years. She has been a classroom teacher, an education director, a program director and an acting-program director, a college course instructor (in English and in Spanish), and had over twenty-articles published in RI, regional and national professional publications. She is the owner of Explorations Unlimited, LLC, a bilingual (Spanish and English) consulting firm that designs and provides training, technical assistance and resource development and review in early childhood education and school-age care in English and in Spanish. Over the past twenty-plus years she has been responding to the needs of the RI Spanish-speaking family child care community, both with her advocacy efforts and by providing training and technical assistance in Spanish. She has been active professionally by serving in a variety of roles, including serving as President and Chair of the Week of the Young for the RI Association for the Education of Young Children, as Chair of the Diversity Council for the New England Association for the Education of Young Children, and representing Family Child Care Homes of RI on the Permanent Legislative Commission on Child Care. She was instrumental in the creation of Conferencia Temas Familiares (the English counterpart to Parenting Matters sponsored by Lifespan) in 2001, and has been involved with this conference to this day. She is a peer reviewer for conference proposals for the conferences of the National Association for the Education of Young Children. She is committed to ensure young children’s mental health needs are kept front and center in the policy, legislation and professional development arenas.
Katheleen Hawes, PhD provides clinical services in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and at the Perinatal and Postpartum Clinic at the Center for Children and Families at Women and Infants Hospital, where she treats women and their partners experiencing perinatal mood and anxiety issues. Treatment includes individual and family psychotherapy. She is an assistant professor (adjunct) in the Department of Pediatrics at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. She trained in adult psychiatry and mental health at the University of Rhode Island and is board certified in adult psychiatric-mental health advanced practice nursing. Her research, clinical work, and lectures focus on stress and trauma related to the premature birth experience. In addition, she studies the relationship between nursing practice and parent and infant outcomes; nurse-patient interaction; the healthcare work environment and provider and patient outcomes; and system and culture change in healthcare.
Jeanne Rheaume graduated from RI College School of Social Work and received her MSW in 1996. She is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker and has been in the field working with children and families for over 30 years, including through Head Start, Early Intervention, and Family Home Visiting Programs. She is presently the Program Coordinator for the Immediate Visitation Response /Nurturing Early Connections Program at Community Care Alliance in Woonsocket.
Danita Roberts is the Program Manager/ Supervisor for Meeting Street’s Healthy Families America Program located in Providence, RI. Danita graduated from Wheelock College with a degree in Human Development and a concentration in Child Life. Originally thinking that she wanted to work to promote development and attachment within a hospital setting, Danita began working at a specialized medical daycare with dreams of eventually becoming a certified Child Life Specialist. This changed, however, after taking a job at the New England Center for Children, where she gained formal knowledge in ABA and an informal understanding of people’s behavior. Ultimately, it was her work with families in their homes, during her time in Early Intervention, that has brought her to love the idea of promoting Infant Mental Health through the fostering of attachment and bonding between parents and their children. As a Program Manager in the Healthy Families America Program, Danita now has the opportunity to help support the family visiting staff to continue this good work.
Ramona E. Santos is the Bilingual Education Specialist and Parent Partner at Parent Support Network of RI. As an Education Specialist, Ms. Santos assist parents of children with serious emotional disturbance in understanding and navigating the special education system, providing peer-to-peer mentorship and coaching before, during and after special education-related meetings. Ms. Santos also works collaboratively with school districts to provide parent education and professional training for teachers. Ms. Santos is the Chair of the RI Family Engagement Advisory Council, which collects feedback from the community on proposed changes to policy or practice that may impact families. Ms. Santos is a Certified Peer Recovery Specialist and a full-time Social Work student at Rhode Island College. Ms. Santos has extensive lived experience navigating the multiple systems of care due to her daughter’s Autism diagnosis. Ms. Santos is an advocate for cultural and linguistic responsiveness practices across all systems of care to better served individuals and families from diverse backgrounds.