An e-newsletter that showcases how children learn and grow each month from birth to 3 years. From Baby to Big Kid translates the science of early childhood and offers strategies parents can tailor to their unique family situation and to the needs of their child. Sign Up!
Arkansas Provides Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation to Early Care and Education Programs
Professional Development, Social and Emotional Health, Developmental Screening, Child Care, Professional Development
Source Of Information:
ZERO TO THREE Policy Center state updates
Arkansas is strengthening early childhood mental health (ECMH) supports in early care and education programs through its ECMH consultation project. Consultants work out of community health centers in six regions of the state, partnering primarily with licensed child care programs to increase the capacity of providers, programs, and families to prevent, identify, treat, and reduce the impact of mental health problems among young children. Letters introducing the ECMH consultation project and offering services are sent to licensed child care programs to generate interest. Programs that request consultation are screened to determine if they have the capacity to benefit from participation. Programs that do not (for example, those that are just barely meeting licensing requirements) are connected with other services to help them address their needs.
Programs that enter into partnerships with the ECMH project work with consultants over a 5-7 month period. During this time, consultants conduct formal observations of the environment, screen children for behavioral concerns, and provide training to caregivers. Training focuses on topics such as problem-solving, coping with stress, and incorporating activities that will strengthen children’s social skills into daily routines. Consultants also work with teachers and parents to develop plans to address the behavioral problems of individual children. Consultants generally visit programs twice a week during the first month of the partnership, once a week during the next 3-5 months, and every other week during the final month.
The ECMH consultation program has been in place since 2004. Initially consultants worked with Head Start and state prekindergarten (Arkansas Better Chance) programs in three regions of the state. The focus shifted to child care when the project expanded into new areas of the state in 2008. A manual that describes the basic parameters for how the project should be implemented, such as duration and intensity of partnerships, was developed to ensure consistent implementation.
ECMH consultants are required to be licensed mental health professionals. A new training and support system, which includes pre- and in-service training, was put in place in 2011. Newly hired consultants are given reading assignments on mental health consultation in child care and participate in webinars provided by The National Technical Assistance Center for Children's Mental Health at Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development. They then attend a 40-hour workshop that focuses on social-emotional learning, early childhood development, screening and referral procedures, and cultural competency. Consultants receive ongoing support once they are in the field through reflective supervision and regular team meetings.
An evaluation of the ECMH consultation project recently completed by the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and Partners for Inclusive Communities found that teachers who received consultation services displayed higher levels of sensitivity compared to those who had not. The evaluation also found that children in intervention sites scored higher on teacher ratings of protective factors and were rated by teachers as having fewer behavioral problems compared to children in other settings.
Funds from the Child Care and Development Block Grant quality improvement dollars have supported the ECMH consultation project. For more information about the Arkansas ECMH consultation project, visit the University of Arkansas website at http://www.uams.edu/partners/ecmhtoolkit/Q1.htm.