• 16 Jan 2019 by Brianna Barnebee

    We hope you’ll take a few minutes to read this inaugural Florida Association for Infant Mental Health newsletter. Our goal is to foster stronger connections among our FAIMH community and build capacity in our membership and partners who work to improve the health and wellbeing of children birth to five. We value the work we do together across Florida for vulnerable young children, their families and those who provide needed supports to them. We hope this quarterly newsletter will inform and inspire you: there are so many leaders across our state providing I&ECMH services and working in programs which deserve more attention. Interviews with two such leaders—Allison Parish, IMH-IV and Jackie Romillo, LCSW and our incoming Board VP—are featured in this edition. Read on!

    Neil Boris, MD
    FAIMH Board President

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  • 15 Jan 2019 by Brianna Barnebee

    Below is our interview with Allison Parish, IMH-IV. She is a partner and leader in the infant mental health field!


    NB: Allison, the FAIMH Board is so thankful for the funds that the Florida MIECHV Initiative was able to share with us in 2018 to help kick-off the Florida Infant Mental Health Endorsement (FIMH-E) effort. You’ve also stepped up personally and volunteered to be part of our Leadership Cohort for FIMH-E and you’re now officially Endorsed as a Level IV-Policy Mentor! As a past-president of FAIMH, your commitment was no surprise, but I know you’ve got strong feelings about the work we’re doing together. What’s motivating you?

    AP: I’ve always been interested in investing in systems not just programs. And I feel like workforce development in infant mental health here in Florida is really important. As a mom of twins (now 8 years old), I also know what it’s like to manage stress while parenting! But it has really been my work coordinating and supporting Florida’s home visiting programs that has inspired me most. I just feel like the effort to support professionals at all levels who do this work is essential; we’re such a big state…it is time we get serious about growing and supporting our IMH workforce.

    NB: You do have an interesting perspective these days, given your oversight of Florida’s MIECHV home visiting programs and the Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems grant. Some organizations use masters level professionals and others rely on paraprofessionals, but all serve families at risk. I’d be interested in your perspective about what folks need to do this kind of frontline work…

    AP: First of all, I feel like anyone working with kids and families needs to know more about infant mental health. Knowing more about the science of social and emotional development helps anyone working with kids of any age. And you don’t need to be a therapist to talk to a parent about their own history in life and to help them sort out ways to focus on their child’s wellbeing. If we give empathetic people good training and ongoing reflective supervision, they can do amazing things.

    NB: Yeah, that’s one thing about the Endorsement system—there’s a focus on folks getting reflective supervision to support them in managing the work—and in not burning out. Speaking of burnout, you are one of those people who wears a bunch of hats! I know one thing that keeps you going is having a job in which you get to learn and do new things. Is there anything you’re working on these days that’s been particularly interesting?

    AP: Yes! While we are great at screening primary caregivers for depression, we’ve struggled to connect families with services when they have a positive depression screen. This could be a lack of available resources or hesitation on the part of the parents. We were hearing that home visitors felt stuck when they knew there was a depressed caregiver and they didn’t think they could do anything about it. In 2018, we partnered with Dr. Darius Tandon at Northwestern University who has created a really helpful curriculum for supporting families, particularly when there are concerns about depression. It is called the Mothers and Babies Program. Mothers and Babies is an evidence-based, interactive program with lessons and activities geared towards promoting healthy mood, parent-child bonding, and strategies for coping with stress. What we like about it is that the home visitors can use these lessons and activities to help caregivers develop more awareness of their feelings and increase their coping skills. It is not a therapeutic intervention, but it can prevent symptoms from escalating and, in some cases, the insight developed through the program helps parents realize they need additional services from a clinician. Our staff are really pleased to have this new tool in their toolbox, and we know it is benefiting the parents and children we serve. They were so excited when they had the opportunity to meet and talk with Dr. Tandon at the recent First 1000 Days Summit.

    Dr. Tandon told me recently, “I am delighted to see Mothers and Babies being used throughout Florida as a tool to promote stronger attachment between mothers and their infants, which is foundational to promoting children’s socio-emotional development.” In 2019, we will continue to promote infant mental health through partnerships like the ones with FAIMH and Northwestern University.

    NB: Allison, thanks for telling our membership about this tool and the work you are doing. And thanks again for your ongoing support of FAIMH. 

  • 15 Jan 2019 by Brianna Barnebee

    Below is our interview with FAIMH VP Jackie Romillo, LCSW. She is a Board Member and leader in our community.


    FAIMH VP Jackie Romillo

    NB: Jackie, I loved what you sent me when I asked you to describe yourself to the FAIMH Board—most of whom already knew you, I might add. Here’s what you told us: “Latina Social Worker with unique sense of humori.e., sarcastic, highly competitive, passionate about making the world a better place, identifies as an agent of change, fiercely committed to justice, focused on empowerment and believes there is never a limit to how much good one can do. Lives by the mantra: We Rise By Lifting Others (Robert Ingersoll).” I’d like to conclude this interview there!

    JR: Glad we could spend this time together.

    NB: In all seriousness, you really have been a change agent in your career and I feel like many infant mental health people gravitate to this field because working with babies means working with change. Tell me more about your path to IMH.

    JR: Fun fact, I actually started as a political science major at FSU, with my sights set on a career in law. You know me, go big on justice and rights or go home! Yet, I had always been equally passionate about psychology, wanting to understand people, their circumstances and driven to help heal. I switched gears, came back to Miami and received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Florida International University. It was the mid-1990’s when I started working in the substance abuse field with adolescents and their families, at a small non-profit in the Little Havana community. Shortly after graduating, I stumbled upon the field of Social Work thanks to a field educator, turned mentor, who I continue to thank to this day. This is where my love of law found a home, in the interconnectedness of social justice, advocacy, policy and direct service- key pillars of social work.

    NB: Wow, so you started with intervention in adolescent substance abuse. That’s challenging work, but I get the connection to justice work…what happened next?

    JR: Well, I completed a master’s in social work at Barry University and over the course of a decade, evolved from a frontline worker to Executive Director of the nonprofit where I got my start. I didn't set out to be a boss, I just wanted to be part of something that really made a difference. In 2007, my journey continued to Citrus Health Network when I fell into infant mental health work. I was hired to implement the first birth-to-five program focused on infant and early childhood mental health consultation to childcare and preschool settings. A few months after starting I was asked to attend a FAIMH Miami Dade Chapter meeting. I was voted in as Co-Chair shortly after. Eventually our programs grew here at Citrus and I became the Administrator for all Early Childhood Development programs. I continued to serve FAIMH faithfully since 2008 bringing awareness, connecting professionals, elevating the quality and competencies of staff and advocating for continued development in the field. I am proud to serve on the Board and excited to work hard as the incoming Vice President.

    NB: Well, we’re thrilled to have you on the Board and now as Vice President, Jackie. I guess this is fair warning to folks: attend a FAIMH chapter meeting, and our organization is likely to pull you in and never let you go! You can find out more about FAIMH Chapters here.