When young children go to child care or preschool they should be in a nurturing and stimulating environment where they can play, learn and have fun. That’s why SAMHSA, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), and the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) have partnered to establish a National Center of Excellence for Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation (IECMHC). IECMHC is an intervention that builds the capacity of teachers, home visitors and parents to address challenging behaviors and promote social-emotional development. The model has shown positive impacts in:
- improving children’s social skills,
- reducing challenging behaviors,
- increasing family-school collaboration,
- improving child-adult relationships,
- preventing preschool suspensions and expulsions, and
- increasing classroom quality, and reducing teacher stress, burnout, and turnover.
The National Center of Excellence will provide state-of-the-art tools, training and technical assistance to build strong, sustainable IECMHC systems in states and tribes. Home visiting professionals will have greater knowledge and skills for helping families who are dealing with health and mental health issues such as attachment disorders, trauma and maternal depression.
This is critically important because as many as 10-20% of young children in early learning settings experience serious problems with behavior and emotions, and their parents and teachers may be overwhelmed or lost when it comes to knowing how best to respond. In fact, studies have found that early learning teachers report that coping with challenging behavior is their most pressing training need, with only about 1 in 5 reporting receiving any training focused on facilitating children’s social and emotional growth in the past year.
As a result of the work of the Center of Excellence, more teachers will be able to call on mental health consultants to help them create positive and nurturing learning environments, to manage challenging situations, and to examine implicit biases that may lead to racial inequities. This National Center of Excellence is one important instrument to promote the health and wellbeing of the next generation, and to realize the President’s vision of access to high quality early care and education for all.