Infant Mental Health, 2000-2001

On October 23 and 24, 2000, the Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF) convened the Infant Mental Health Forum in Washington, DC. ACYF undertook the planning of the Infant Mental Health Forum in response to questions from program staff and members of the technical assistance network. These questions included inquiries about the meaning of the term "infant mental health" as well as resources to turn to for information. Given the Head Start mandate to provide comprehensive services to families, there were also many questions about the Early Head Start and Migrant Head Start role in providing or accessing mental health services for children and families. Programs were encountering some families with identified mental health needs, some families who developed needs over time, and others who were not in need of specialized services but did experience milder and transitory problems, as did all infants and families as they encountered new developmental challenges. Therefore, this meeting was designed to address the range of needs from the promotion of healthy emotional development to the prevention of problems in at-risk groups and intervention for those families with identified needs. In order to cover this array of issues, experts from many disciplines associated with infant mental health were asked to come and share their knowledge. Additionally, Early Head Start and Migrant Head Start parents, program staff, and regional and central office staff were asked to share their knowledge from experiences in Head Start settings. Finally, partners from other federal agencies and private foundations were invited in order to facilitate communication among those interested in furthering the mission of meeting the mental health needs of young children and their families.

Agenda of the Infant Mental Health Forum in October 2000

Agenda of the Infant Mental Health Forum

Monday, October 23, 2000


Continental Breakfast


Welcome and Overview

Patricia Montoya, R.N., Administration on Children, Youth and Families

Judith Jerald, MSW, Head Start Bureau

Rachel Chazan Cohen, Ph.D., Commissioner's Office of Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families


Keynote Presentation: Defining Infant Mental Health

Charles Zeanah, M.D., Tulane University

This keynote presentation will begin the discussion by providing a definition/guiding concept of infant mental health that encompasses the continuum of behaviors from normal social/emotional development to behaviors that warrant intervention. The speaker will also highlight the range of providers who have a role in promotion, prevention and treatment of infant mental health and identify the urgent need to build capacity within communities to appropriately address the mental health of infants and their families.


Infant Mental Health As It Relates to Early Head Start and Migrant Head Start Programs

Tammy Mann, Ph.D., Zero to Three

This session will tie the more global discussion about infant mental health to the responsibilities of Early Head Start and Migrant Head Start programs as articulated in the Head Start Program Performance Standards. The session should provide a framework for participants to begin thinking about appropriate roles for Early Head Start and Migrant Head Start programs in promoting social and emotional development of infants and toddlers.


Morning Break


Discussion Groups




Panel: Addressing Mental Health Needs of Infants, Parents and Families in Early Head Start and Migrant Head Start: Lessons from the Scientific Community

Helen Raikes, Ph.D., Society for Research in Child Development, Visiting Scholar, Administration on Children, Youth and Families -- Facilitator

Kathryn Barnard, R.N., Ph.D., University of Washington
Rosanne Clark, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin
Robert Emde, M.D., University of Colorado
Hiram Fitzgerald, Ph.D., Michigan State University
Susan McDonough, Ph.D., M.S.W., University of Michigan

This session will develop a better understanding of the context for social-emotional development including genetic endowment, developmental processes, parental factors, relationships between young children and their parents, and family factors which exist within the broader culture and community. Within each of these spheres mechanisms that facilitate mental health will be identified as well as those mechanisms by which pathologies might arise. The impact of poverty will be highlighted throughout the session.


Afternoon Break


Discussion Groups




Tuesday, October 24, 2000


Continental Breakfast


Overview of Mental Health Efforts Across the Department of Health and Human Services

Beverly Malone, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N., Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health


Keynote Presentation: Understanding and Addressing Infant Mental Health from a Cultural Perspective

Suzanne Randolph, Ph.D., University of Maryland

This session will increase awareness of how expectations and perceptions of infant mental health might differ by culture and the importance of understanding how the culture of the family and community can be used as a resource in addressing mental health issues.


Panel: Opportunities and Challenges of Addressing Mental Health in Early Head Start and Migrant Head Start Programs - Lessons from the Field

Jane Knitzer, Ed.D., Columbia University -- Facilitator

Community Action Agency, Jackson, MI

Shelly Hawver, MSW, CSW
Chris Hines
Denise Kerwin

New Vision for Newport County, Inc., Middletown, RI

Susan Dickstein, Ph.D.
Cynthia Larson

Hope Street Family Center, Los Angeles, CA
Maria Toni Medina
Cecilia Samartin, MA
Sherrie Segovia, MA

Ounce of Prevention, Chicago, IL
Judith G. Bertacchi, M.Ed., L.S.W.
Ruby Peet, L.C.S.W.

Participants will learn about the various models or approaches to infant mental health services, how they are, or could be, integrated into Early Head Start and Migrant Head Start programs and the considerations programs would need to give to effectively implement mental health services in the program (with respect to screening, assessment, services, referral, training, mentoring, supervision, the program budget and other organization supports).




Developing a Mental Health Initiative for Early Head Start and the Migrant Head Start Program

Hiro Yoshikawa, Ph.D., New York University

The purpose of this session will be to gather ideas from Forum participants about activities the Head Start Bureau should consider undertaking as part of a Mental Health Initiative for Early Head Start and Migrant Head Start. The session will begin as a plenary and then move to small discussion groups.


Afternoon Break


Reporting Back


Next Steps




Infant Mental Health Initiative

Early Head Start is taking a number of action steps designed to build on knowledge generated from the Forum on Infant Mental Health. The Head Start Bureau is supporting the Early Head Start National Resource Center (EHS NRC) at Zero to Three to engage in a number of follow-up activities critical to maintain sustained focus on this important issue.

The overall approach to implementing follow-up activities will reflect principles that guided the planning and implementation of the Forum. Specifically, the EHS NRC will engage a broad spectrum of multidisciplinary experts, program staff, training and technical assistance providers, researchers, and parents in the development and dissemination of the follow-up activities. The EHS NRC will work to make certain that knowledge generated from related Federal, state, and private-sector initiatives inform their work as follow-up activities are carried out. The September 2001 issue of Zero to Three represents one important step in disseminating the presentations and discussion of the Forum and beginning dialogue with the larger infant/family community. Additional activities include consensus building, information gathering, and training.

  • Consensus building: A 15-member Task Force will be established to examine, at a more in-depth level, questions that arose during the Forum around the "meaning" of infant mental health from a promotion, prevention, and treatment perspective. This Task Force will also identify skills and competencies required of staff who work at various points of this service continuum.
  • Information-gathering activities: Concurrent with activities of the Task Force, the EHS NRC will conduct three information-gathering activities that will significantly influence the work of the Task Force and enhance understanding of issues that must be considered in planning and implementing infant mental health services. Information gathering will include targeted discussion groups aimed at understanding the impact of culture on the understanding of the meaning of infant mental health. In addition, the EHS NRC will convene state Forums that will replicate select aspects of the October 2000 Forum, extending the experience to engage state leaders, service providers, and parents in substantive discussions around developing and implementing comprehensive systems of care. Finally, through investigative research activities, the EHS NRC will identify state and local systems-of-care models that might serve as templates for communities that are interested in developing coordinated systems of care for meeting the mental health needs of very young children.
  • Training: Building on the knowledge generated by the Task Force, the EHS NRC will develop an intensive training experience for EHS and Migrant programs and EHS' broader support network, aimed at enhancing their capacity to positively impact the social and emotional well-being of infants and toddlers in the context of their relationships with parents. The training approach will acknowledge the importance of training teams and of offering follow-up consultation and support.

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