National Center for Effective Mental Halth Consultation

Mental Health Principles for Head Start and Early Head Start

(Adapted from Feinberg & Fenichel, 1996; Stark, et al, 2002)

  • Comprehensive: Mental health intertwines with every aspect of individual growth and development and should be integrated into every aspect of the Head Start or Early Head Start Program — affecting every participant from child, to parent, to staff, and administrator.
  • Wellness: Mental health services are strengths-based and focus on wellness, building on the individual strengths of children, families, and staff to remain healthy, gain a positive self-concept, build meaningful relationships, develop coping skills, and manage stress (Social Competence).
  • Promotion, prevention and early intervention: Mental health services include the continuum of care — promoting mental health and resilience, prevention of behavioral difficulties for those at risk, and recognizing mental health needs and providing early identification, referral, and supports that return children, families, and staff to a state of wellness.
  • Child-focused: Mental health services to infants, toddlers, and preschoolers are developmentally appropriate, individualized for each child, designed to maximize the full potential of all children served, and always involve their family or caregivers.
  • Family-centered: Parents represent their child's first relationships as well as the primary educators and decision makers for their children. Support to families offers self-esteem and skill building experiences that encourage parents' own mental health, promote responsive and nurturing relationships between parents and children, and build stronger families. Families are equal partners with caregivers, staff, and service providers.
  • Community-based: Linkages and partnerships with community-based services enable children and families to access needed services in order to meet specific mental health needs and serve the whole family in the context of their community.
  • Culturally responsive: Mental health services must be provided in the context of the family, their culture, and community with awareness of, respect for and appreciation of differences and diversity.

Mental Health Principles




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