Infant Early Childhood Mental Health (IECMH) Consultation Program Interview with Brandy Fox, director of the IECMH Consultation Program
As early childhood educators we recognize the need for children to have strong, secure bonds with the adults that surround them (parents, caregivers, relatives, teachers, etc.). The strength of those relationships lay the foundation of children’s physical, emotional, and mental development. We have noticed over the course of the past few years and especially emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic that early childhood mental health has become a trending topic. We wanted to take the opportunity to feature the Infant Early Childhood Mental Health (IECMH) Consultation Program for our readers.
Please share with our readers what the IECMH consultation program is by giving them an overview of the program.
- IECMH Consultation is a free service for childcare programs participating in Keystone STARS.
What are some of the services that are available?
- Virtual IECMH Office Hours
- Child-specific Consultation (with parent permission)
- Program/Classroom Consultation (pilot model in development)
What is the role of an IECMH Consultant?
- Mental health consultation is not about “fixing kids.” Nor is it therapy. Mental health consultants’ partner with adults to facilitate healthy growth and development for infants and young children. Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health consultation provides support for parents and childcare professionals who work with children experiencing persistent or puzzling challenges.
What are the components of IECMH Consultation?
- Onsite or virtual classroom observations
- Screening/assessment strategies for children and classrooms
- A process to identify caregiver and child strengths and opportunities for growth
- Facilitate the creation of an action plan to support children and classroom staff
- Referrals for additional supports if need is identified
What is the goal of working with the IECMH team?
- Increased resiliency for children
- Increase in caregiver reflective practice skills
- Reduced caregiver stress
- Improved school readiness for children
- Fewer incidents of challenging behaviors
- Reduction in expulsion and suspension practices
Where are the IECMH Consultants located?
- Consultants are located across the state so that we can support childcare providers with both onsite and virtual consultation supports. Meet our Team.
Are you able to share feedback you’ve received from a program or parent who has received IECMH services?
- Program: “I love working with the Infant Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation Program! I always learn something new and feel like I can talk through any problems that I may be having to make improvements within the childcare center.”
- Parent: The consultant “was wonderful to work with to help improve the relationship between our child and his teachers. His behavior is improving, and the collaborative effort has really paid off. Thank you!”
What is one stigma or barrier you’d like to break down about early childhood mental health?
- Infant/early childhood mental health is synonymous with healthy social- emotional development.
- A child who is exhibiting challenging behavior to get their needs met does not necessarily mean the child has a mental illness or needs mental health services.
Who can request IECMH supports (family childcare providers, group day care homes, center-based programs)?
- Onsite consultation supports can be requested by a childcare program in collaboration with the parent/family/guardian, as parent permission is required. Consultation is available to center, group and family care settings as well as PreK Counts. Our consultation program does not serve children who are participating in Head Start, Early Head Start, or Migrant Head Start.
- Virtual Office Hours are open to any system partner and families across the state who are caring for or supporting very young children.
How are supports requested?
- The process for requesting consultation services can be found at the bottom of our monthly newsletter and/or by clicking here.
Is there a time limit of how long a child/program can receive supports from the IECMH team?
- We average about 8-10 touchpoints for onsite consultation. Our program goal is to help early childhood professionals learn new ways of connecting with children, nurture relationships, reframe and respond to behavior as communication, and adjust environments so that when concerns arise, they feel confident in their ability to support a child or group of children’s social emotional development.
I live in: Dauphin County
Background: Social Work, Autism, Infant/Early Childhood Mental Health
Experience in IECMH: My first experience with IECMH was when I began working in the program at the PA Key in the fall of 2010. Prior to that, my past experiences included almost every level of the behavioral health system in PA, including managed care. I have served in several roles within the program, including Coordinator, Program manager and now Director.
Something personal/fun fact: I knew I had found my calling and love for IECMH when I heard that we have 1 million opportunities per second to impact the developing brain and change the trajectory of a child’s life through their relational experiences with those around them.