Lessons Learned from Interventions to Address Infant Mental Health in Early Head Start: Research to Practice Brief

Publication Date: December 15, 2008


Early Head Start continues the legacy of Head Start in providing comprehensive services to low-income children, families, and communities. The commitment to supporting children’s social-emotional well-being is central to the mission of Early Head Start (EHS). However, programs often struggle to understand and address the emotional and mental health needs of very young children and their families and lack the knowledge, skills and infrastructure within the community to assess and serve children. In response to questions from program staff and members of the technical assistance network and at the urging of the Early Head Start Technical Work Group, in October 2000 the Administration for Children and Families held a national meeting, the Infant Mental Health Forum. The primary goals of the Forum were to address the role of Early Head Start and the Migrant Head Start programs along with their community child care partners in promoting infant mental health in all children, preventing problems in at-risk populations, and accessing treatment for those with identified needs. The Forum allowed for the sharing of information from leaders in the field of infant mental health and the sharing of promising practices from Early Head Start programs. As a result of that meeting, the Early Head Start Infant Mental Health Initiative was begun. The initiative included the Pathways To Prevention Training provided by the Early Head Start National Resource Center (Boss, 2004; Zero to Three, 2004) and a research component consisting of the Early Promotion and Intervention Research Consortium (E-PIRC).

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