National Center for Effective Mental Halth Consultation
   

Why is it Important to Have Strong Job Descriptions, Request for Proposals, and Contracts?

Head Start Performance Standards offer programs considerable latitude in how they work with mental health consultants and limited specific guidance about who should be hired, what these individuals should do, and how to structure the work of the consultants. However, research and practice in the area of mental health consultation have begun to identify consultation approaches that may be more effective in Head Start settings. Administrators can support effective early childhood mental health consultation by establishing the administrative structures, procedures, and policies that reinforce these best practices.

Head Start programs differ in such basic areas as how they employ or work with mental health consultants.

  1. Some Head Start programs directly employ a mental health professional to provide early childhood mental health consultation (ECMHC) services.
  2. A Head Start program that directly employs a mental health professional to fulfill the role of a mental health consultant (MHC) will need to create a job description that specifically outlines the qualifications, roles, and responsibilities of the individual as an employee of the Head Start program.
  3. Some Head Start programs contract with a mental health professional who is self-employed or employed by an outside agency or organization.
  4. Head Start programs that contract for ECMHC services will need to solicit services through a Request for Proposals (RFP) that outlines the types of services that are being sought with a job description either incorporated into or attached to the RFP.
  5. Then, when an agency or individual is identified to provide the ECMHC services, the Head Start will need to create a contract, which is a formal agreement between the Head Start program and the contracted MHC or agency that outlines the scope of services to be provided by the contracted MHC to the Head Start program.

In either case; job descriptions and contracts are both essential documents for implementing, supporting, and evaluating the work of the MHC. Through the job description and the contract, the Head Start program conveys the program’s vision of mental health services that was developed through the strategic planning process. The documents then become a road map for the MHC in creating and implementing ECMHC services that reflect the agency’s vision for mental health in their program services. They can also be useful for communicating the roles and responsibilities of the MHC to program staff who will be partnering with the MHC. The Head Start program can also use the job description or contract to evaluate the degree to which the MHC is providing the types of consultation services that the program intended.

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Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development National Center for Effective Mental Health Consultation