An interview with winner of the Policy Award, Ashley McCormick
Editor’s Note: Last September, ZERO TO THREE announced three winners of the Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health (IECMH) Emerging Leadership Award for 2021–2022. In this issue of Crib Notes, we introduce you to the winner of the Policy Award, Ashley McCormick. Ashley is the endorsement and communications director for the Alliance for the Advancement of Infant Mental Health (Alliance) based in Southgate, Michigan.
- What is the burning question(s) that has led you to the work you are doing now? How do you hold a competency-based professional standard that is informed by diversity, equity, inclusion, and access? A large portion of my role involves overseeing workforce development initiatives, like the [Endorsement for Culturally Sensitive, Relationship-Focused Practice Promoting Infant/Early Childhood Mental Health ](https://www.infancyonward.org/i-ecmh-endorsement/). The Endorsement credential has been around since 2002 and is currently used by 32 US states and Western Australia. Each time a new state or country begins using the credential, they raise the question of whether the credential is a "good enough" fit for their infant and early childhood mental health workforce. When this happens, I, along with my colleagues, examine the current standards that are in place, seek to understand how others are using the credential, and determine if changes are necessary. In recent years, our examination of the standards has taken a more urgent tone as we further consider whether they are equitable and inclusive. We now find ourselves asking, "Who benefits, who is burdened, and who is not included in the Endorsement process or in the discussion?" ([MyCoLab Partners, Theory to Action: Equity Framework](https://www.mycolabpartners.com/our-services)) Then we look to the [Diversity–Informed Tenets for Work with Infants, Children, and Families](https://diversityinformedtenets.org/) to inform our next steps. The steps are often complex or unclear and lead us to paths that have yet to be explored, which can be very overwhelming. I personally use the overwhelm to fuel my desire to make change and continue to ask the questions that need to be asked so that states and countries can offer a diverse, equitable, and inclusive Endorsement process and credential to their workforces.
- What is the greatest challenge to IECMH professionals at this point in time? What motivates you or gives you hope to overcome that challenge? The pandemic highlighted how dependent our society has become on early childhood education providers/programs while also illuminating how little those professionals are valued, supported, and compensated. I see it as both a challenge and an opportunity for all infant and early childhood professionals to advocate with or on behalf of that sector of the workforce. We know that early childhood education providers offer infants, toddlers, and young children a sturdy foundation by promoting optimal social-emotional development and relational health. We know that this sturdy foundation is invaluable to their overall health and development. And we know that that workforce deserves fair and equitable wages.
- What message or advice would you like to share to those who aspire to be make a difference, and perhaps become emerging leader themselves, in the field of IECMH, particularly when it comes to influencing and leveraging public policy. Seek out like-minded infant and early childhood mental health professionals who are asking the same questions you are; especially if those seem to be the unpopular questions to ask. Now is the time to assess systems, policies, and procedures and ask: "Who benefits, who is burdened, who is not included in the system, policy, procedure, etc., or in the discussion?" The Diversity-Informed Tenets for Work With Infants, Children and Families tell us that infant mental health work is social justice work.