We know from the recently published Education Context Report, one out of every six children in New Mexico has multiple Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES). ACES are traumatic events experienced in early childhood that can negatively impact our social and emotional development. ACES come in many forms, from physical and, mental abuse to household dysfunction.
The likelihood that young children with ACES will exhibit symptoms through challenging behaviors is extremely high. We seehow increasingly common it has become for children as young as two years of age being expelled from daycares. The reality is that many of these children have experienced multiple traumatic events in their young lives and some of our early childhood education & care, (ECEC), staff may not be fully prepared to support these children from a trauma-informed perspective. Now more than ever we need to provide additional training with knowledge and skills through the lens of infant mental health.
The Doña Ana County Early Childhood Education Coalition formed in 2014 as the initial pipeline in the prenatal to career education initiative known as the SUCCESS Partnership. As part of our commitment to support the ECEC workforce, we have partnered with the New Mexico Association for Infant Mental Health (NMAIMH), offering scholarships for infant mental health Endorsement ® in Dona Ana County and throughout the state. Funding for these scholarships has been provided by the Pritzker Grant in collaboration with the Early Childhood Education & Care Department (ECECD).
The NMAIMH is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting healthy development for all infants and young children in New Mexico by providing specialized training and Endorsement ®. “My work over the last four years with the ECE Coalition has demonstrated the importance of infant mental health education. Promoting the awareness and importance of infant mental health is something that I’m very passionate about. I have been on the NMAIMH board for the last two years and was recently voted in as the Vice President. Cesia Otero, Early Childhood Education Coordinator for the ECE Coalition, continues, the alignment and overlap between the DAC ECE Coalition and the NMAIMH was a natural partnership”. According to NMAIMH Board President, Ruth Ortiz “the association strives to remove barriers for ECE & care workforce to become Endorsed ® and build capacity across New Mexico to support infants, toddlers & families”.
The Infant Mental Health Endorsement ® is the process in which the ECEC workforce builds on knowledge and skills to support healthy relationships between primary caregivers and infants & toddlers. Supporting the individuals who are providing services to families should be one of our top priorities to ensure quality care.
To this end, the DAC ECE Coalition has also partnered with a local child care development center, Little Amigos to implement a Reflective Consultation (RC) Pilot. The pilot consists of having an Endorsed ® infant mental health consultant who provides Reflective Consultation with all staff. Within the RC process, the ECEC staff are able to examine with a trusting consultant the thoughts, feelings, and reactions evoked when working directly with infants, toddlers & their families.
Unfortunately, this type of support is not yet available to all childcare development centers, but imagine what a difference it would make for our ECEC professionals to have this type of support. What if all childcare development centers had an infant mental health consultant that assisted them and provided the necessary tools and resources to care for our babies?
The future of any society depends on its ability to foster the wellbeing of its children – tomorrow’s citizens, workers and parents. When we support the people taking care of our children, it benefits the development of our community. Reflective Consultation and Endorsement ® enhances the quality of services, creates a more competent workforce, and reduces ACES. By supporting professionals in all settings that work with infants and toddlers and their families, we create a better Doña Ana County.
To learn more or get involved, contact Cesia Otero, DAC ECE Coalition Coordinator & Vice President, NMAIMH. DACECE is housed by La Clinica de Familia Early Head Start, which is a federally funded community-based program for low-income families with infants, toddlers and pregnant women