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The Rhode Island Early Childhood Mental Health Competency Guidelines The Rhode Island Association for Infant Mental health has recently introduced competency guidelines for consideration across the varied early childhood serving sectors in Rhode Island. This article explains the reasoning behind creating these guidelines; and it proposes a plan that could be constructed from implementing these guidelines. Reasoning behind Constructing Guidelines: Infants and toddlers are vulnerable to environmental risks (e.g., maltreatment, maternal depression, poverty). Sustained exposure impacts the architecture of the developing brain, associated with adverse developmental consequences. In order to promote social emotional health and wellbeing, and prevent adversity in at-risk populations, an implementation, training, and policy agenda must be adopted that supports healthy foundations for early development and learning. Further, we must commit to supporting the professionals who serve infants, toddlers, preschoolers and their families so they can effectively and confidently provide supportive and effective services (e.g., in child care,

medical homes, home visiting programs, family-community care and foster systems), especially for our most vulnerable populations. Across RI’s early childhood-serving systems, there is a knowledge gap in the area of early social emotional health (including influences of risk and trauma) to inform and support the everyday work of frontline professionals in our community; as well as lack of a coordination to track core competencies of our multi-disciplinary workforce who serve vulnerable and high risk infants, toddlers, preschoolers and their families. In line with the strategic goals of RI’s Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems Initiative (Successful Start), and the RI Department of Children, Youth, and Families, professionals who works with young children and families need to be supported to incorporate core principles that promote social emotional health and wellness—that is, 1) early relationships matter; 2) social emotional health cannot be considered outside the context within which care of young children is provided; and 3) reflective practice is an essential stance.


A successful system to promote early childhood social emotional health: Operates on multiple levels (child, parent/caregiver, environment) to a) promote healthy early development within the context of safe and secure relationships; b) prevent developmental delay, behavioral disorder, and relationship disturbance; c) treat identified disorders in early childhood and early parenthood; and d) attend to the training needs of its multi-disciplinary workforce (Perry et al., 2005; Zero to Three).

Specifically, the Michigan Association for Infant Mental Health (MIAIMH) competency guidelines and endorsement process creates such a framework of knowledge, skills, and reflective practice experiences for the early childhood workforce. This competency and endorsement system could provide a pathway for workforce development to promote children’s social emotional health, require high quality systematic trainings, and generate a foundation for the establishment of recognized qualifications.

The Plan: We can begin to address gaps by adopting early childhood mental health competency guidelines that 1) provide a framework of knowledge, skills, and reflective practice experiences for early childhood workforce involving high quality systematic training and 2) generate a basis to establish recognized qualifications. Further, any system that generates standards and expectations of performance must also be aligned with professional development opportunities for the workforce to 1) access high quality training experiences; 2) that are embedded within a reflective coaching/supervision/consultation model.

This is a system that can be linked to and aligned with already existing structures in RI that monitor qualifications of our professional workforce who care for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. Consistent with the Successful Start strategic plan, and with support of RI DCYF, the Rhode Island Association for Infant Mental Health introduces the RI Early Childhood Mental Health Competency Guidelines for consideration across the varied early childhood serving sectors in RI. After all: “Early Childhood Mental Health is Everyone’s Business!”

To download a complete copy of the Rhode Island Early Childhood Mental Health Competency Guidelines Please Visit: www.riaimh.org/competency-guidelines

The Rhode Island Early Childhood Mental Health Competency Guidelines  

The Rhode Island Association for Infant Mental health has recently introduced competency guidelines for consideration across the varied earl...

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