National Center for Effective Mental Halth Consultation

Take Home Messages

  • Promoting mental health for children, families, and staff has been an integral part of the Head Start Program since it began in 1965.
  • Key influences on the design, integration, and delivery of mental health services have been influenced by:
    • Head Start Program Requirements and Performance Standards (1998)
    • An array of Head Start funded review, research, and publications
    • New understanding emerging from the science of child development
    • Training and technical assistance resources bringing research to practice
  • The Head Start and Early Head Start program philosophy rests on four basic principles"
    • A child can benefit most from a comprehensive, interdisciplinary program to foster development and remedy any developmental concerns.
    • Parents are the primary educators of their children and must be directly involved in the program.
    • The well-being of children is inextricably linked to the well-being of the entire family.
    • Partnerships with other agencies and organizations in the community are essential to meeting family needs.
  • Take Home MessagesMental health principles for Head Start and Early Head Start include:
    • Comprehensive
    • Wellness
    • Promotion, prevention, and early intervention
    • Child-focused
    • Family-centered
    • Community-based
    • Culturally responsive
  • Head Start and Early Head Start must follow the Head Start Act and specific Program Standards for mental health services that provide a foundation on which Head Start and Early Head Start programs design and deliver supportive mental health services. Within these parameters, each program has the flexibility and responsibility to decide how to implement the standards in ways that respond to their unique community and program needs.
  • The Office of Head Start has made a variety of guides, training guides, publications, and training and technical assistance providers available to supportHead Start and Early Head Start programs. These resources offer important context and guidance to administrators, staff, consultants and families in designing, delivering, and evaluating mental health services.
  • Head Start and Early Head Start can be credited with breaking new ground in supporting the mental health of young children, families and staff, yet challenges remain in making the most of early childhood mental health consultation.
  • The recent evolution of the field of early childhood mental health consultation includes progress in:
    • Defining early childhood mental health consultation
    • Establishing the evidence base
    • Determining what makes consultation effective
    • Capacity building for delivering and evaluating consultation
  • Strong mental health consultation services can benefit Head Start and Early Head Start by:
    • Fostering the social-emotional development of all young children in the program;
    • Targeting specific factors that place young children at risk for developing behavior problems;
    • Building the capacity of staff and families to implement evidence-based interventions to reduce challenging behavior;
    • Promoting adoption of program-wide strategies that integrate evidence-based promotion, prevention and intervention approaches to young children's social-emotional development; and
    • Incorporating research-based approaches to addressing staff and family well-being as essential ingredients in young children's healthy social and emotional development.
  • Strong mental health consultation services in Head Start and Early head Start include:
    • Leadership that values and supports mental health, has a clear vision of mental health consultation, and guides the planning and implementation of mental health services.
    • Finding a prepared (knowledge, skills, and qualities) and effective consultant with training and experience that matches the program's philosophy, needs, interests, and requirements
    • Orienting the consultant to the Head Start and Early Head Start philosophy, program requirements, and the unique features and culture of the program and the community in which it operates.
    • Building working relationships that are trusting, respectful, and reflective among administrators, staff, caregivers, and families.
    • Knowledge and utilization of evidence-based and effective practices and strategies to promote social emotional development, prevent and intervene Partnerships with community resources and a continuum of mental health services and supports Resources to evaluate and sustain services, including financial or other support
  • The Center for Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation offers a diverse array of learning opportunities and resources that include:
    • A self-study guide for consultants
    • Best practice tutorials for consultants
    • Implementation toolkits for consultants to use with families and staff
    • A management and sustainability guide for program administrators




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