Policy Resource

California Revises Training Standards to Improve Infant, Toddler, and Early Childhood Mental Health

Feb 9, 2016

Learn more about California's Training Guidelines and Personnel Competencies for Infant-Family and Early Childhood Mental Health.

In 2009, California published revised competency standards. These standards, titled California Training Guidelines and Personnel Competencies for Infant-Family and Early Childhood Mental Health (California Infant-Family & Early Childhood Mental Health Training Guidelines Workgroup, 2012), were developed during a 2-year process by a work group consisting of infant-family and early childhood specialists involved in training programs throughout the State of California, as well as representatives from the California Department of Mental Health, WestEd, ZERO TO THREE, and the Infant Development Association of California. The work group also developed an endorsement system that has been piloted and refined. This system is operated out of the California Center for Infant-Family and Early Childhood Mental Health, a component of WestEds CPEI. The system includes a website (cacenter-ecmh.org) that hosts the training guidelines and competencies, the competency application process, and general information and resources devoted to infant and early childhood mental health. One of the strengths of the California system is that it has developed a set of electronic tools for application, review of materials, and storage.

The current California competency system has three broad categories, two of which are analogous to the previous levels: mental health specialist (professionals licensed or license eligible), transdisciplinary mental health practitioner (allied professionals, similar to the core providers in the previous California system), and reflective practice facilitator. The transdisciplinary category has an additional advanced subcategory. Facilitation, in this model, is similar in broad form to supervision, although facilitators may not necessarily provide direct clinical or administrative supervision to the providers. The reflective practice facilitator category itself is divided into three subcategories: Level 1, Level 2, and Mentor.

In general, the requirements for endorsement in terms of education, required supervision, and clinical hours become more stringent as one moves from transdisciplinary practitioner, to advanced transdisciplinary practitioner, to specialist. The two categories of reflective practice facilitator have identical endorsement requirements, except that Level 2 facilitators have to be endorsed mental health specialists, while Level 1 facilitators may be endorsed transdisciplinary practitioners. Finally, reflective practice mentors, who provide support to facilitators, must be previously endorsed reflective practice facilitators (Level 1 or 2) and meet additional training and mentoring experience.

The competencies for transdisciplinary practitioners and specialists are divided into eight categories. Adherence to competencies is measured by number of hours of training or coursework done across the eight broad categories, which is proven by a transcript or portfolio review, rather than a checklist of specific indicators. Candidates can choose to specialize prenatal to 3 years, 3 to 5 years, or the entire prenatal-to-5-year spectrum. The reflective practice facilitator competencies were adapted from a journal article that outlined reflective supervision skills (Heffron, Ivins, & Weston, 2005) and are divided into three major areas:

  1. Clarity Regarding Roles and Ethics”understanding of the parameters of early childhood mental health practice, including legal issues, ethics, and professional boundaries
  2. Understanding of Interpersonal Influence Issues”helping the practitioner to understand relationship-based practice, such as use of the helping relationship, understanding of family relationships, and ability to reflect on interpersonal dynamics in help-giving
  3. Facilitation Skills”the facilitators own ability to support the professional growth and identity of the practitioner

Various infant mental health training programs in the state have aligned their curricula with the California competencies, including the University of California, San Francisco Infant-Parent Program, Alliant University, and trainings provided through the Infant Development Association of California.

Updated February 2016

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