This article summarizes key themes from Oklahoma’s role in a convening of states and jurisdictions centered around improving state policies supporting Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health assessment, diagnosis, and treatment.
Children’s earliest experiences impact their brain formation and in turn, their social and emotional, physical, cognitive, communication, and sensory and motor skills development. Recognizing the tremendous opportunities and risks associated with this critical time, states are increasingly investing in promoting infant and early childhood mental health (IECMH), defined as the capacity of a child from birth to age five to experience, express and regulate emotions; form close, secure interpersonal relationships; and explore his/her environment and learn, all within the context of family and cultural expectations. ZERO TO THREE released two papers in 2018 and 2019 highlighting strategies states are employing to support children’s IECMH. Highlights from Oklahoma include:
- In a section focused on increasing the number of IECMH providers with the support of IECMH associations and credentials, Oklahoma’s work is described. Oklahoma worked with the university system to develop a course on infant assessment and development. While taking the course, students are assigned a reflective consultant who supports them as they begin working with clients. The hope is that by providing the course along with reflective consultation, the practitioners will have the baseline understanding needed to effectively serve infants, toddlers, and their families. The course is aligned with the university’s effort to launch an infant mental health graduate certificate offering additional formal education to a multidisciplinary workforce.
- In a section focused on IECMH Consultation, Oklahoma’s network is highlighted. Oklahoma has a network of IECMH consultants available to early care and education programs in about half of its counties. This is accomplished through braided funding efforts using Child Care Development Fund, state, and federal grants. State and private partners participate in the network sharing a common training and mentoring process. Through Oklahoma Project LAUNCH (Linking Actions for Unmet Needs in Children’s Health), the state piloted consultation in pre-K settings.
- In a section describing how states grow leadership outside the government, Oklahoma is highlighted for investing in a co-leadership role between the state Departments of Health and Mental Health for the state’s IECMH efforts. This has greatly influenced coordination around a shared state plan and related activities within state and federally funded projects
Learn more about how Oklahoma and other states are promoting IECMH in Advancing Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health: The Integration of DC:0–5™ Into State Policy and Systems and Exploring State Strategies for Financing Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Assessment, Diagnosis, and Treatment.
Oklahoma is one of twenty states and jurisdictions participating in ZERO TO THREE’s IECMH Financing Policy Project that supports states in improving IECMH policy and practice, with a focus on financing.