The December 2015 infant mental health breakfast featured a lively resource fair with presentations and materials from five organizations, followed by much discussion and commentary.
Karen Krivit from Elwyn SEEDS showed a remarkable autism education video, made by herself, and directed toward assuring parents that they are not alone in dealing with autistic children. Karen has created videos for a range of languages and cultural backgrounds. The one she showed us was in Spanish and English, with the innovative feature of alternating languages for spoken words and subtitles-- sometimes English with a Spanish subtitle, sometimes the other way around. The audience was fascinated and impressed, and we could easily have spent the whole meeting discussing the video and how it was made and is used.
Brenda Golden and Marilyn Edmond of ChildLink discussed the provision of early intervention services to children 3 years old and under, and brought materials about infant-toddler and preschool intervention. They brought up an issue that became a general theme of this breakfast: how do we communicate with families in need of services? What happens if the family moves to a different area of the city? What happens if they become homeless? And what happens if one child problem is successfully addressed, but a different one emerges with age? These questions can be particularly important for issues like hearing impairment, where problems change or appear to be “solved” as development progresses. The presenters also pointed out that a stumbling block for provision of services is difficulty in recognizing early signs of trouble; another problem is keeping a positive approach so parents are not scared.
Sharon McClafferty of Southeast Regional Key sent information about Keystone STARS, and infant-toddler specialists Sarita Brown and Lizbeth Ramos presented. STARS is a statewide program of the Pennsylvania Office of Child Development and Early Learning which supports childcare programs, with an emphasis on staffing. Programs approved by STARS at the Star 1 level have a parent handbook, an annual plan to continue professional development, and a practice of meeting with parents when a child enrolls. In Star 2 programs, at least half of the group supervisors have associate’s degrees in early childhood education, parents get daily updates on classroom activities, and teachers observe children’s development when they enroll. In Star 3 programs, group supervisors have at least associate’s degrees in early childhood education, there are at least two teacher conferences each year, and there are independent evaluations of classroom arrangements and learning activities. At the Star 4 level, at least half of the group supervisors have bachelor’s degrees in early childhood education and programs have strategic plans to ensure continuing quality improvement. Infant-toddler specialists, child care health consultants, and early childhood mental health consultants are available for needed assistance.
Elaine Frank and Denise Rowe of Parenting Services for Families described their organization’s services for both adoptive and non-adoptive families. These include assessment of family relationships, child behavior, and parenting concerns and parent-child counseling and therapy. Adoptive families may also need help with children’s adjustment to the new family, developmental delays, attachment problems, or the consequences of coming to the family from other countries, orphanages, or foster care. Parent-child counseling and therapy are available for children under three as well as for older ones. Parent coaching and developmental guidance is another service offered.
Icylee Basketbill of Health Federation of Philadelphia discussed home visitation and a recruitment program, and mentioned the importance of working with both fathers and mothers. In addition, Icylee was mentioned as one of the “stars” of one of Karen Krivit’s autism education programs!
The group discussion was enlivened by the presence of Stephanie Bey, program analyst for early intervention for the city of Philadelphia, who joined with the rest of us in the discussion of issues of collaboration and communication.