by Jenifer Chacon, Content Specialist, Professional Development & Workforce Innovation
I’ve always been inquisitive. As a child, I constantly annoyed my parents with questions. The trait has remained a constant throughout my life and has translated into my professional life as a search for knowledge.
In my decade as a professional, I’ve had many roles – elementary school teacher, home visitor, and policy analyst to name a few. Each experience was filled with triumphs and challenges and served as a stepping stone propelling me for what was to come. In retrospect, each stepping stone was a professional development opportunity that made the path ahead of me much clearer.
I find myself at yet another stepping stone. A year ago, I embarked on a 15-month fellowship – the Napa Infant-Parent Mental Health Fellowship Program. The program is an intensive, interdisciplinary training with a mentoring component for professionals working with children ages birth to 5 years. The fellowship convenes one weekend of the month in beautiful Napa, California. And so, for the last 13 months, I have traveled to Napa from my home in Los Angeles to engage in what has become a life changing opportunity in my professional career.
One of the greatest lessons learned is the deeper understanding of the dynamic and multifaceted nature of relationships. The relationships between the parent-child dyad cradles development in all areas of growth and impacts lifelong learning, relationships, and overall wellness. The relationship formed between a family and the professionals they encounter in the fields of physical health, mental health, child welfare/social services, early childhood education, and early intervention are alliances that are engaging, supportive, and meet the needs of the family. The relationships among professionals create a collaborative community of knowledge and skill that extends our individual capacities to strengthen families.
Membership in an interdisciplinary community is a great take away from the experience. I found a tribe of dedicated, reflective, intellectual, collaborative, and supportive individuals who share a similar mission to support children and families. Each of the fellows hold the key to their field-specific knowledge that, when tied with mine and those of others, creates a therapeutic web that addresses the needs of the whole child. It widens our understanding of the child and increases the number of strategies that can effectively engage and support families.
Relationships are central to the human experience and must be central to our work. Relationships support development and builds resilience and community. However, they are not automatic. As ever-evolving professionals, we must work to reinforce the parent-child relationship, to be relationship focused when working with families, and establish connections with professionals across disciplines. Relationships is a theme that reverberates across the field and it reverberates for a reason.
Editor’s Note: Do you have a professional development experience that has had a significant influence on your journey working with on behalf of infants, toddlers, and their families? Share your experience on Member Connect!