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American Public Health Association
133rd Annual Meeting & Exposition
December 10-14, 2005
Philadelphia, PA
APHA 2005
5174.0: Wednesday, December 14, 2005 - 2:45 PM

Abstract #111211

Infant mental health and family support: An integrated approach for community-based programs for families with young children

Carol L. McAllister, PhD and Tammy Thomas, MSW, MPH. Dept of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences, Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, 130 Parran Hall, 221 Parran Hall, Pittsburgh, PA 15261, 412-624-8139, tltst26@pitt.edu

This presentation will describe and analyze the experiences of an Early Head Start program in adopting and implementing an infant mental health (IMH) approach in its work with community families. Through qualitative methods (participant observation, qualitative interviews, and case studies), we examined the strategies used, and the challenges encountered, by program staff as they applied IMH principles in their home visiting interventions with families whose lives involve significant economic, social, and psychological stressors. Our study identified four elements crucial to an effective IMH initiative: (1) teamwork, especially the use of transdisciplinary teams to review family cases, (2) reflective supervision, which encourages staff to reflect on their own relationships with and feelings about families, (3) development of an integrated and empathic understanding of the child's needs and the parent's challenges in meeting those needs, and (4) a dynamic ecological understanding of children, families and communities in which psycho-social and political-economic factors are viewed as mutually important and interactive. We argue that each of these elements both builds on and enhances long-standing dimensions of this EHS program's family support approach, in particular its strengths-based practice, relationship-focused work, collaborative partnerships between families and staff, and program services rooted in and responsive to local communities. One result is the creation of an innovative and integrated model of infant mental health and family support that could prove of value in many community-based programs serving families whose emotional health is affected by everyday experiences of economic and social inequality.

Learning Objectives:

  • At the conclusion of this session, the participants in this session will be able to

    Keywords: Maternal and Child Health, Community-Based Partnership

    Presenting author's disclosure statement:

    I wish to disclose that I have NO financial interests or other relationship with the manufactures of commercial products, suppliers of commercial services or commercial supporters.

    [ Recorded presentation ] Recorded presentation

    Enhancing Interactions In A Home Visiting Environment

    The 133rd Annual Meeting & Exposition (December 10-14, 2005) of APHA