Early Intervention Professionals Learn to Address Infants’ Mental Health Needs
RMHS Partners with Colorado Association for Infant Mental Health to Support Infant Social and Emotional Development
When infants have responsive parents and caregivers, infants develop a healthy brain architecture that allows them to regulate and express emotions, get along with others and explore the environment to learn.
A partnership between the Colorado Association for Infant Mental Health (CoAIMH) and Rocky Mountain Human Services (RMHS) is giving early intervention professionals the tools to understand infants’ mental health development and support caregivers’ needs, so young children can make a good start in their social and emotional growth.
Over the past six months, a group of 28 early intervention professionals has been gathering monthly for eight three-hour training sessions that address a variety of topics including child and family development, caregiving relationships, brain development, early adversity and toxic stress. These professionals can then work with families to not only address children’s developmental delays, but also their social and emotional health and development. The course, Colorado Foundations of Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health for Early Childhood Professionals and Partners (Colorado Foundations), was developed by CoAIMH and the Policy Equity group with funding from the Community First Foundation.
Jodi Dooling-Litfin, Ph.D., director of Developmental & Behavioral Health at RMHS, helped review the learning collaborative’s modules and quickly saw how the collaborative would create a shared language between early intervention professionals and mental health professionals. With that language, early intervention professionals could focus on infant and early childhood mental health and further support the families they serve.
“Early intervention professionals are typically trained to focus on development of early skills,” Dr. Dooling-Litfin said. “This collaborative offers training in supporting relationship development, which is crucial long-term growth, too.”
Kelly Stainback-Tracy, MPH, PT, IMH-E® infant family specialist, perinatal mental health specialist at Denver Public Health and Colorado Foundations master trainer, has facilitated the learning collaborative to RMHS clinicians and early intervention professionals. Stainback-Tracy is also a physical therapist with 15 years of experience in early intervention. With this background, she presents the curriculum in a way that helps early intervention professionals relate it to their work with children and families.
One professional who is part of the collaborative shared that she serves three families with children who showed extreme distress every time the mothers left the room. By using tools from Colorado Foundations, the professional assisted the families with the children’s mental health and supported the parents’ opportunities to make small behavioral adjustments. As a result, the children’s sense of security has improved and they are more independent and confident.
RMHS intends to make this area of child development part of its long-term training.
“As the collaborative nears an end, we will evaluate the impact on our early intervention practices and determine the best way to ensure that our early intervention professionals continue to be supported in this important area of work, as well as how we can ensure that new staff have access to training and supervision in this area,” Dooling-Litfin said. “Our RMHS early intervention management team has already decided to embark upon a journey toward more formally incorporating reflective practice into our organization by reading a book on reflective supervision together as a first step.”
To learn more about early intervention at RMHS, visit www.rmhumanservices.org/ei.