Social and emotional development of infants and young children is the foundation upon which all development – physical growth and health, cognitive skills, and language acquisition – unfolds. It stands to reason, then, that those who work with infants, young children, and their families, from across many different disciplines, should integrate the tenets of infant and early childhood mental health (IECMH) in their practice and professional competencies.
IECMH competencies describe content knowledge (e.g. infant and early child development, family dynamics, or risk factors), as well as practical skills and abilities (e.g. assessment skills, treatment approaches, or reflective capacities) that specialists must have in order to successfully perform their duties. They are specific and provide areas of knowledge and practice required of someone who works with infants and young children and their families – regardless of the service delivered – to ensure they have the knowledge, skills, and experience to support healthy development through relationship-based practices with an emphasis on social and emotional well-being. Competencies build a skilled workforce. They help to upgrade professional standards that increase consistency of practice and quality of services, provide guidelines for higher education and other training programs, recognize IECMH within Medicaid and other behavioral health financing systems, and increase recognition of IECMH as a field of practice.