Early relationships and experiences at home and in other environments set the stage for how a child learns to manage his or her emotions. Since 2000, the Ohio Department of Mental Health (ODMH) has provided cross-system leadership in the development of the Early Childhood Mental Health (ECMH) initiative. This program supports evidence-based training to equip parents and caregivers of young children with the skills to help their children develop into mentally healthy individuals. Parents and teachers who effectively nurture, support and connect with young children, especially those experiencing social or emotional difficulty, can ameliorate future disabling problems. In addition to parent education activities, it is imperative to identify and support families experiencing the effect of maternal depression through screening and referral to effective services.
Early childhood mental health is the social, emotional and behavioral well-being of children birth through five years and their families, including the capacity to:
Early childhood mental health is influenced by:
For infants, toddlers, preschool-age children and their families, the system of care is built upon a set of values that includes family and child-centered practice and policy, cultural and linguistic competence and grounding in developmental knowledge. The system of care provides a comprehensive cross-system, cross-agency infrastructure that sustains services and supports that:
ODMH endeavors to increase knowledge, awareness, resources and skills necessary for communities to meet the behavioral health needs of young children and their families, especially those at risk for abuse, neglect and poor social and emotional health. The ECMH initiative is aimed at promoting healthy social and emotional development (i.e., good mental health) of young children (birth to six years). It focuses on ensuring these children thrive by addressing their behavioral health care needs, which increases their readiness for school and later academic success. This is accomplished by building protective factors in young children’s lives and increasing competencies and skills of parents and early childhood providers.
Allocations are provided to local mental health boards to support mental health consultation services for early childhood providers and families of young children. The ECMH initiative also facilitates the development of community wellness and prevention activities targeting the healthy social and emotional development of infants, toddlers, young children and their families. Services and activities targeted to programs serving young children and families include:
Over the past eight years, much of the development and implementation of the Ohio Early Childhood Mental Health Program has been built upon the research and resources available from the Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development (GUCCHD).
A workgroup comprised of early childhood mental health professionals developed core competencies for ECMH providers. These core competencies were written to promote the professional development of knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary for ECMH professionals who provide consultation and/or treatment.
Early Childhood Mental Health Services: Four State Case Studies
Ten Principles of an Early Childhood Mental Health Service System
Early Childhood Mental Health Values
Childrens Rights - English
Derechos de los Niños - Español
Additional online resources