A Focus on Infant/Early Childhood Mental Health

November 2021
This newsletter focuses on sharing information on infant/early childhood mental health and
the importance of relationship-based approaches and supports that help infants and young children feel safe, supported, and valued by the adults around them. The newsletter, and the Infant Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation (IECMHC) program, is made possible by a partnership between the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) and the Pennsylvania Key.
Welcome to the November issue of the IECMH newsletter! This month we will continue to explore the universal tier, nurturing and responsive relationships, with a focus on the importance of family engagement.  

Strong family engagement is central in promoting children's healthy development and wellness, including: 
  • social-emotional and behavioral development; 
  • preparing children for school; 
  • seamlessly transitioning them to kindergarten; and 
  • supporting academic achievement in elementary school and beyond. 

Families are children’s first, longest lasting, and most important teachers, advocates, and nurturers. Positive parenting and strong family engagement is central-- not supplemental-- to promoting children’s healthy development and wellness. This includes social-emotional and behavioral development; preparing children for school; seamlessly transitioning them to kindergarten; and supporting academic achievement in elementary school and beyond. Families’ engagement in children’s learning at home and in early care and education programs can impact lifelong health, developmental and academic outcomes. 

Did you know that the Pennsylvania Key, on behalf of OCDEL, has developed resources to help families and early childhood system professionals better understand, navigate and support social-emotional growth in children? Please visit the Bright Start Resource Library. 
The Pennsylvania Key Infant-Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation Team is excited to share a new service: Virtual Office Hours!
Through Virtual Office Hours, early learning professionals, families, and specialists who are supporting children 0-5 will be able to speak directly with IECMH Consultants via telephone or video conference. Virtual Office Hours is a short-term, collaborative, problem-solving conversation to help caregivers and specialists find next steps for: Child Social-Emotional Concerns, Child Behavioral or Developmental Concerns, Emotional Well-being of Teachers and Caregivers, and Partnering with Families.
This service is now available at no cost across the state of Pennsylvania. Virtual Office Hours are available by appointment on the first and third Fridays of every month. Get more info.
  • As a child-care provider, you soon discover that developing positive relationships with parents is critical to providing the best care possible to their children. Here are 3 key steps to follow when having difficult conversations with parents.

  • Addressing sensitive topics with families will take planning and preparation. The key step for preparing to talk with families about sensitive topics happens when children and families first enter your program. Developing a partnership with families will open the door for conversation and make it easier to approach sensitive topics.

  • It is important to increase parents’ awareness of the importance of early relationships and of their role in nurturing their child’s social-emotional development. The Action Sheet will support and guide conversations for healthy outcomes.
  • It’s important for early childhood personnel to use a variety of strategies to communicate with families and to offer opportunities for families to share information about themselves and the child. Different families will appreciate and be responsive to different ways of communicating. 
  • Connecting and collaborating with families of young children is a critical success factor in early care and education classrooms. Discover new strategies for supporting families in this webinar.
  • Explore this collection of resources to support your work with families remotely. Many of the resources are available in Spanish.
  • Inclusive language is about checking assumptions and recognizing personal biases. Family Inclusive Language specifically aims to avoid making assumptions about the identities of individuals or their relationships to one another.
The Pennsylvania Key has streamlined the process for Keystone STARS programs to request Infant Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation (IECMHC). Child care providers can request services by using the Request for Service Form (PDF). Completed forms can be submitted via email PAIECMH@pakeys.org or faxed to 717-213-3749.
Programs and families can contact the program leadership directly at PAIECMH@pakeys.org with questions or concerns.
Share your feedback! We'd like to hear what you think about infant early childhood mental health. Are there resources you'd like to see? Questions you have? Tell us! Send your feedback to PAIECMH@pakeys.org.