Infant Early Childhood Mental Health (IECMH)

Why Infant Early Childhood Mental Health is Important?

Infant early childhood mental health is synonymous with healthy social and emotional development. It is developing capacity of the child from birth to age 5 to:

  • form close and secure inter-personal relationships
  • experience, regulate and express emotions; and
  • explore the environment and learn in the context of family, community, and cultural expectations from young children.

(Adapted from ZERO TO THREE: National Center for Infants, Toddlers & Families)

IECMH Consultation Program

What is the Infant Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation Program?

The IECMH Consultation Program in Pennsylvania emerged as a response to a 2006 report from the BUILD Infant-Toddler Task Force, which provided recommendations for improving social-emotional outcomes for the state’s young children.  That same year, IECMH Consultation was piloted in the state.

As a result of the program’s early success, the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) funded a statewide implementation of IECMH Consultation to continue to support the early childhood system workforce in supporting the social and emotional development of infants, toddlers and very young children. Over the course of the past 14 years, the program has had continued support and sustainable funding from the state as a result of continuous quality improvement efforts, evaluation (internal and external) strategies, program outcomes that reduce expulsion risk, as well as demonstration of the large demand for these supports by childcare programs across the state. While originally implemented in collaboration with OCDEL’s regional business partners (formally the Regional Keys), beginning in FY 2019-2020 the Pennsylvania Key added the talented consultants to our staff complement.  This strategy has created a single point of referral for the entire state, has improved our ability to consistently triage requests, manage a wait list, monitor equitable distribution of services, and maximize our ability to identify gaps in coverage and reallocate staff assignments.  As a result of this change, we have expanded our staff complement to a total of 29.  Our team is regionally based across the Commonwealth to serve and support childcare programs participating in Keystone STARS, including center, family and group-based care.

Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health (IECMH) Consultation is a free resource that supports children’s social- emotional development from birth through age 5 within early learning programs participating in Keystone STARS.

How the IECMHC Program can Help Children, Families, and Early Child Education Providers

Through a reflective, collaborative, problem-solving and capacity-building relationship, mental health consultation encourages adults to build stronger relationships with infants and young children so that they feel safe, supported, and valued.

IECMH Consultants Help Caregivers of Infants and Young Children To:

  • Recognize every child’s strengths and potential
  • Reflect on the power and impact of nurturing relationships
  • Figure out what’s really going on when a child is “challenging”
  • Respond to problem behaviors in an nurturing and positive way
  • Help children develop important skills, like sharing, getting along with others, and resolving conflict
  • Connect with children in ways that promote their growth and development
  • Create supportive environments for children
  • Build relationships with families
  • Share about supportive services and resources in the community.

IECMH Consultants Offer

IECMH Consultants specialize in early childhood development and mental health and well-being. They work with parents and caregivers in the early care and education setting to provide:

  • Onsite or virtual classroom observations
  • Screening/assessment strategies for children and classrooms
  • A process to identify 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

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.

Benefit of IECMH Consultation

  • Stronger relationships between children and the adults who care for them
  • 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

To Find Out More or Request IECMH Consultation:

The Pennsylvania Key IECMHC Virtual Office Hours

The Pennsylvania Key Infant-Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation (IECMHC) Program is offering a new service: IECMHC Virtual Office Hours. IECMHC Virtual Office Hours is currently being piloted in ELRCs 11-19, with plans underway tomake the service more widely available to other ELRCs in the future. IECMH Consultants are available by appointment to provide IECMH Virtual Office Hours consultation via telephone or video conference. IECMHC Virtual Office Hours is a short-term, collaborative, problem-solving conversation to help you find next steps for: Child Social-Emotional Concerns, Child Behavioral or Developmental Concerns, Emotional Well-being of Teachers and Caregivers, and Partnering with Families. See the brochure for additional details.

For more information on Infant Early Childhood Mental Health: