Policy Resource

Ohio Develops Early Childhood Mental Health Competencies

Feb 9, 2016

Ohio's Core Competencies for Early Childhood Mental Health Professionals were developed by a 12-person work group from around the state, covering a broad range of experience and expertise (Ohio Department of Mental Health [ODMH], 2009).

The group continued work that was initially begun with the social-emotional work group of BUILD Ohio (Himmegar, 2008). The document was written to promote professional development, skills, and attitudes necessary for working with diverse populations (ODMH, 2009, p. 5) and served as a first step in articulating multidisciplinary competences in Infant, Toddler, and Early Childhood Mental Health (ITECMH) practitioners. The competencies are one component of Ohio’s ITECMH program, conceived as a continuum of services and supports, although the primary focus is consultation (Himmeger, 2010). Ohio’s early childhood mental health plan recommended that ITECMH specialists (viewed as consultants or therapists) be licensed mental health professionals. The recently developed Ohio Early Childhood Mental Health Professional Credential, primarily aimed at consultants, requires mental health licensing for applicants, although a grandfather period in 2012 allowed existing consultants and therapists to be credentialed without a license. Those seeking the credential must demonstrate coursework or professional development that aligns with the competencies.

The Ohio competencies are divided into domain areas, which are seen to build sequentially on one other. In other words, knowledge of a young child’s social-emotional development is the primary foundation of the competencies but must be viewed in the context of relationships. From this basic knowledge, the specialist can add assessment and intervention skills and knowledge, with professional practices (including ethics) as the final step. The domain of health, nutrition, and safety was consciously excluded from listed competencies, as this area were seen as being addressed in only limited ways by ITECMH professionals (ODMH, 2009). This is noteworthy because it is one of the few times that an ITECMH competencies document specifically limits the field of its practice. In most cases, competencies attempt to be as expansive as possible. Another noteworthy element is that the Ohio competencies do not specify an age group, although the OH ITECMH program is generally focused on ages birth to 5 years.

Learn more about Ohio and how other states are developing their Infant, Toddler, and Early Childhood Mental Health Systems in ZERO TO THREE’s paper:


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