Mental Health for Babies and Young Children

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Category: News

May 29, 2024

Support the Mental Health of Young Children

Effective and innovative approaches to child health and family well-being are core to our mission. When Any Baby Can launched 45 years ago, we were trailblazers in early childhood intervention, and that spirit still drives our work today.

We’re excited to announce a new initiative called Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation (IECMHC). This project is made possible by a five-year grant from SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) in collaboration with The University of Texas at Austin. It serves as a groundbreaking endeavor in Texas that aims to create a positive environment for the mental health of infants and young children.

Our team is developing and implementing a model with the goal of teaching parents and care providers how to identify concerns, address issues early, and set the stage for positive mental health in children.

Prevention and Early Intervention

Half of all mental disorders start by age 14 and usually have warning signs much earlier.(1) Prevention and early intervention are crucial to ensure mental health concerns don’t follow children into adulthood and impact their daily lives.

Research has shown that how parents and caregivers interact with infants can have a significant impact on the child's mental health as they grow older. Early brain development is influenced by children’s day-to-day interactions with their caregivers. The brain is strengthened by positive early experiences, especially stable relationships with caring and responsive adults in safe and supportive environments.(2,3)

The IECMHC program focuses on providing consultative services to parents, caregivers, home visitors, and anyone involved in the life of a child. By working with everyone who interacts with young children, we aim to provide customized support and tools to prevent mental health concerns.

A Mental Health Lens

The program is created for individuals who work with children between zero and eight years old. We’ll work with families currently enrolled in our Nurse-Family Partnership, Healthy and Fair Start (Parents as Teachers) and Early Childhood Intervention programs. Staff will utilize the expertise of our Lead Mental Health Consultant, Jimena Isaza, LPC-S, to supplement services whenever they have mental health concerns.

Our consultant works with home visitors to identify concerns that may come up through the ASQ (Ages & Stages Questionnaire), maternal depression and anxiety screenings, observed behavior in children, or issues with attachment. She conducts in-home observations, helps troubleshoot, and consults directly with parents and providers. A key element of this work is to understand the uniqueness of each family, including cultural or racial approaches and trauma-informed practices.

Plans for the Future

As this new initiative expands and evolves, Any Baby Can is also making plans to increase the program’s reach. We’re looking at ideas such as offering early childhood mental health consultation services to childcare centers, preschools, clinics, community partners, and other providers. We look forward to sharing more as it develops!

The Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation program has been successful in other states, but Any Baby Can and The University of Texas at Austin are spearheading the effort to bring this innovative program to Central Texas. By providing education, consultation, and tailored interventions, this new mental health program is helping create a brighter, healthier future for the youngest members of our community.

 

 

 

(1) Colizzi, M., Lasalvia, A. & Ruggeri, M. Prevention and early intervention in youth mental health: is it time for a multidisciplinary and trans-diagnostic model for care?.Int J Ment Health Syst14, 23 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13033-020-00356-9

(2) Lally, J Ronald; Mangione, Peter. YC Young Children; Washington 72, Iss. 2, (May 2017): 17-24.

(3) Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. (2010). The foundations of lifelong health are built in early childhood.

RELATED RESOURCES

Bilingual mental health counseling for the whole family in the comfort of your home or other safe space.

Any Baby Can is a leader in parent education, family health and child development programs in Central Texas.

Every time we interact with a family, we assess the parent-child dynamics, mood and stressors.

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