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Beyond Case Management: The Role of Mental Health Professionals Within Part C Early Intervention

May 31, 2022

Erin Poffenberger, Frederick County Infants and Toddlers Program, Frederick, Maryland


Part C of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) mandates the provision of early intervention (EI) services to qualifying children under 36 months old. Social–emotional development is one area that programs are obligated to provide assessment and intervention for and yet, most EI programs do not have licensed mental health professionals (MHP) on staff. This article highlights the need for the MHP as a member of the EI team and presents ways to expand their role to enhance the quality of EI services provided to children and families. The author describes how the EI program in Frederick County, Maryland, is using MHP in an innovative way.

Early nurturing relationships with parents and caregivers are crucial for infant and early childhood development. It is within these relationships that infants, toddlers, and young children build strong (or weak) foundations for cognitive, emotional, and social development. When parents are responsive, nurturing, and stable, infants, toddlers, and young children develop secure attachments, which allow them to become confident, resilient, and better able to manage their emotions.

Mental health professionals (MHPs) need to become staple members of the early intervention (EI) team in order to ensure that social–emotional delays are identified as early as possible. Providing mental health services to young children and their families within EI is vital. Without the expertise of the MHP on the EI team, these disruptions in healthy attachment are being overlooked and untreated. The Frederick County Infants and Toddlers Program (FCITP) located in Frederick, MD, is expanding the role of the MHP on the EI team to better meet the needs of children and families in the program.

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