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  • 28 Oct 2021 by Christine Hughes Pontier

    We have an opportunity to elevate the visibility of IECMH policy needs in Congress! As you may know, there's lots of exciting action on mental health in the Senate right now. 

    Why is FAIMH sending you a Policy Alert? One set of IMH competencies that we aim for all IMH professionals to meet is Law, Regulation and Agency Policy. Additionally, there is an Endorsement category specifically for those who work in policy and advocacy--the Infant Mental Health Mentor-Policy (IMHM-P). Florida and FAIMH are fortunate to have two Policy Mentors, Dr. Christine Hughes and Dr. Allison Parish, to help keep us informed on important policies in need of advocacy and action.

    The turnaround time for this request is tight (Monday Nov. 1), but these issues are critical to IMH professionals in the US, and many are directly aligned with the work each of you is doing, promoting, and advocating for in Florida.

    Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Finance Committee Ranking Member Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) have launched an effort to develop bipartisan legislation to address barriers to mental health care, and they've issued a request for input from the field. Their letter requests evidence-based solutions and ideas to enhance behavioral health care in the following areas (sections a-e below). That's where you come in!

    Please email your recommendations. We’ve added some notes about infant/early childhood mental health (IECMH) issues that come to mind for us in these categories to get your ideas flowing, but we encourage you to draw from your experience--this is an opportunity to give real-world context to promising innovations and solutions.

    In their letter, Sens. Wyden and Crapo ask about...
    a. Strengthening the workforce – The Senators need to understand that the IECMH workforce is a specialized and necessary one. The Alliance, Zero to Three, and Associations for Infant Mental Health around the nation are encouraging the Senate to invest in the IECMH workforce and establish the IECMH clinical workforce development program introduced in the RISE from Trauma Act. This must include supporting high-quality, competency-based training and professional development, as well as support for professionals earning the Florida Endorsement for Culturally Relevant, Relationship-Focused Practice Promoting Infant and Early Childhood Mental Heath®.

    b. Increasing integration, coordination and access to care – This is a great place to highlight the value of mental health consultation across settings including child care, home visiting, early intervention, primary care, and child welfare, as well as integrated behavioral health in pediatrics, obstetrics, and family health settings. This is another place to promote the importance of Florida's Endorsement for Culturally Relevant, Relationship-Focused Practice Promoting Infant and Early Childhood Mental Heath®. Earning IMH Endorsement should be expected of everyone serving infants, young children and/or their families--not only mental health clinicians. There are several categories in which a professional can earn Florida's IMH Endorsement, and therefore, professionals across disciplines should be supported in earning it if they are serving children under 5 years and their families.

    c. Ensuring parity between behavioral and physical health care – Examples from Florida's professionals about the lack and importance of parity are valuable in painting a picture. We know, based on our current understanding of brain and developmental science, that no matter what you call it--mental health, emotional health, relational health--it matters and it matters MOST in the early years. The ACEs research shows us that the way that we develop mentally, emotionally and relationally is critical to our growth and health lifelong. Our healthcare and health insurance systems must change to ensure that preventative mental and emotional health is just as important as preventative physical health, and intervention and treatment of mental and emotional health concerns is just as important as the treatment of physical health concerns.

    d. Furthering the use of telehealth – So many states have great learnings from the past year and a half about how telehealth can work for young kids, and what limitations Congress should be mindful of for IECMH services. Psychological services access programs, consultation, and other innovations in telehealth for IECMH are valuable to promote and grow. You might describe, based on your experience, how telehealth could be best used with families with young children, perhaps highlighting more access to populations who otherwise would or could not access traditional in-person care, or ways that we could expand telehealth to other populations that would keep them connected to care during transitions (e.g. the transition home from the hospital after a birth).

    e. Improving access to behavioral health care for children and young people – We need to make sure the Senate understands that infants, toddlers, and young children are part of the population that needs to be served, and that they have a right to developmentally appropriate services that meet their unique needs!  They also need to hear that caregiver mental health, including perinatal mental health, is essential. This is a great opportunity to show them innovative ideas for providing services to young children and whole families. This is a chance to highlight that the needs of professionals must be addressed and supported, too. The direct service that IECMH professionals does is hard and can be traumatizing; professionals deserve support to ensure they are providing the best services they can to our youngest residents and their families.

    Please set aside time before Monday Nov. 1st to send your input. The more people the Senate hears from, the most seriously they will take these requests to consider infant and early childhood mental healthcare a critical part of this overall initiative. You can read the letter for more detail in their request, and more about this initiative here. You must submit your response to by Monday November 1st. 

    Thank you for taking this time to be an advocate for Florida's future!

  • 27 Oct 2021 by Christine Hughes Pontier

    Today, FAIMH celebrates YOU!

    You've heard from us a lot this week, so we'll keep this email brief. THANK YOU.

    For all that you do, for the time you spend, for ways that you sacrifice, for the passion and drive you have to do better for our babies and their families, for the effort it takes, for the commitments you keep, for the fact that you are still here and still showing up for your fellow professionals when our community is called together. Thank you.

    This Celebrate Babies Week, designed by FAIMH's incredible leader Dr. Harleen Hutchinson, has been a time for us to re-ignite the passion, reconnect to our purpose, and come together to share the joy, the challenges and the appreciation that we all have for each other as colleagues.

    Please take time to watch the videos that were sent in from professionals and organizations all over Florida to share how they celebrate babies and how they celebrate all of us professionals....and know that you are valued, appreciated, and celebrated.

    View our 2021 Celebrate Babies Week videos

    Missed our 2021 Celebrate Babies Week IMH Conversation? View the recording.

  • 21 Oct 2021 by Christine Hughes Pontier

    Today's post offers us a reflection on how to "keep the baby in mind" from Past President Dr. Anne Hogan

    Keeping the Baby in Mind – Learn by Watching Their Interest!

    Do you remember falling in love? How you wanted to know all the things they liked?  Whether it was a song, a snack, a movie, or a game! If they paid attention to it, you wanted to pay attention too. 

    Little babies can have a hard time following your interests, but you can show your love and help them learn by following theirs

    Their emotions are great indicators. What do they like? How can you tell? The more you know what your baby likes, the easier it will be to keep them in mind. 

    Watch for babies’ signs of interest. Interest is an important emotion that organizes their learning from the first days of life. You know your baby best when you are tuned in to what they like to look at, like to listen to, like to touch and explore. They don’t need words -You can sure see and hear it.

    Babies show their interest by leaning in, looking longer, smiling or vocalizing with “happy baby sounds.”

    Of course, you are of special interest, but many things catch their interests, too. Watch for and share in their interests. Those moments of sharing will help you both enjoy the now, and remember the fun.

    Reflective practice is a cornerstone of infant mental health practice. It allows the professional an opportunity to step back from the immediate, intense experience of work with (or on behalf of) infants, young children and families. It give us the time and space to consider what the experience means to the professional (themselves), the child and the family. When we use reflective practice, we notice & examine our emotions, experiences, actions, and responses, and can use that insight to guide our next steps in the work. Growing our reflective capacity is critical for us as professionals who work with infants, young children, and families, because it can provide a more grounded understanding of our work as well strengthen our own resilience.


  • 20 Oct 2021 by Christine Hughes Pontier

    Wednesday October 20th

    Today's post is written by Miami Chapter Chair, Noemi Marquez, LCSW

    As infant mental health professionals, we strive to support and strengthen every child and family we serve, no matter who they are, where they are from, what they look like or how different they are from us. In order to build more diverse, inclusive and equitable organizations, programs and services, we embed the Diversity Informed Tenets for Work with Infants, Children and Families into our everyday lives and work with infants, children and families, or our programmatic management or organizational administration. This starts with aspiration, intentional practice and individual and collective commitment. The Tenets Initiative helps people, organizations, and systems of care by offering a set of aspirational principles which we can all work towards.

    Here are some practical examples of how we can implement these tenets into our daily lives and work regardless of how we serve babies, children and their families.

    1. Self-Awareness Leads to Better Services for Families

    • making intentional, protected time every week for reflection on the families we serve and how our own experiences affects that work.

    • Making time every day to be self-aware of how we are feeling and in attempt to not allow our feelings to get in the way of our service.  

    2. Champion Children’s Rights Globally

    • When we are watching the news, pay attention how issues are affecting children’s rights and talk about it with our family and friends.

    • If you feel passionate about a children’s rights issue, get involved, even if that looks like volunteering a little bit of your time or signing a petition.  

    3. Work to Acknowledge Privilege and Combat Discrimination

    • Work on better understanding our own identity and the various facets where we may experience privilege so we can become more mindful as to how we interact we others.

    • Privilege can be experienced in the context of: race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, social class, beauty, weight, age, education, health or disability status, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

    • Bring to mind that we have multiple identities and folks can have intersecting marginalized identities therefore compounding the impact of negative experiences.

    4. Recognize and Respect Non-Dominant Bodies of Knowledge

    • Let us be on the lookout to praise others as folks are wise in their own experiences.

    • Knowledge and information do not only come from academia and research, but also from the families we serve and our colleagues.  

    5. Honor Diverse Family Structures

    • There are many types of family structures: single-parent families, same-sex parent families, multi-racial homes, families created by adoption and many more.

    • Each family structure is special and valuable, and we can work on respecting and honoring families for their own unique characteristics.  

    6. Understand That Language Can Hurt or Heal

    • The words we use can intentionally or unintentionally discriminate others.

    • We can be intentional about saying kind things to those around us.

    • We can take time to listen to understand where others are coming from so that we can intentionally keep that in mind while we speak with others.  

    7. Support Families in Their Preferred Language

    • We seek to hire staff that match the culture of the community we serve and that can talk to our children and families in their preferred language.

    • Recognize that children and families who speak multiple languages or language different than ours bring important strengths and experiences that should be valued and celebrated.  

    8. Allocate Resources to Systems Change

    • We can give of our time to change the bigger systems, but we can also dedicate the resources we have control of toward making change.

    • We can focus on spending the resource of time and continuing education toward learning more about diversity, equity and inclusion and how to apply it in our homes, workplaces and communities.  

    9. Make Space and Open Pathways

    • Purposely open job opportunities and leadership opportunities to persons base on their talents, especially those that are historically underrepresented, marginalized and oppressed.

    • We can also do this in other aspects of our life, too, with our peers, personal causes, our families and children.  

    10. Advance Policy That Supports All Families

    • When we hear policy, we think of politics and government. We can work on those, but we can also work on a smaller scale within our own program or services--examining the policies your program/services may have around eligibility, service provision, or discontinuation of services to identify any policies that overly burden some participants but not others. 

    • Let’s take an honest reflective assessment of our own programs and be creative as to how we can adjust our policies and everyday behaviors to support all families regardless of identity. It can start with how you individually treat the babies, children, and families that you work with.

    For more information about the Diversity Informed Tenets, visit 


  • 20 Oct 2021 by Christine Hughes Pontier

    Tuesday October 19th

    Today's post to share is written by Past President Neil W. Boris, MD

    The British psychiatrist John Bowbly, often considered “the father of attachment theory,” wrote this in the first volume of his seminal trilogy of books on attachment: "Intimate attachments to other human beings are the hub around which a person's life revolves, not only as an infant or a toddler or a schoolchild but throughout adolescence and years of maturity as well, and on into old age. From these intimate attachments a person draws strength and enjoyment of life and, through what he or she contributes, gives strength and enjoyment to others. These are matters about which current science and traditional wisdom are at one." (Bowlby, J. (1980) Attachment and Loss: Volume 1. Attachment. Basic Books: New York. Note: words in italics added).  


    I believe Bowlby’s words have profound implications for those of us in the helping professions—those of us working with families facing struggles, families needing strength.  Bowlby’s words suggest that by creating relationships, and then using those relationships to contribute something to others, we are leveraging science and wisdom at once.  How cool is that?!

    Because relationships are central to infant mental health practice, this week we also celebrate YOU, the professionals who work with, or on behalf of, babies and their families in Florida!

    As an important adult in a child's life--whether you are a child care teacher, an Infant/Toddler Developmental Specialist, therapist or perhaps an administrator of a program that serves babies & families--you make a positive impact through your relationships built and sustained over time.

    And, four decades after Bowlby wrote those words Dr. Boris reflects on above, it does appear that both science and wisdom agree!

    Don't forget to RSVP for tomorrow's Celebrate Babies IMH Conversation!

    Weds. October 20th via Zoom at 12pm Eastern/ 11am Central

  • 18 Oct 2021 by Christine Hughes Pontier


    Monday October 18th

    FAIMH's mission is to support & strengthen the infant mental health workforce in Florida....but what makes an infant mental health community?

    Infant Mental Health professionals are professionals who use reflective practice to "hold the baby in mind" in all we do. We promote relationship-based practices and service, and understand the importance of every day experiences, serve-and-return interactions and responsive caregiving practices to best support the healthy brain development of infants and young children. We support and serve the parents and family together with the infant or child, since babies grow in the context of family, community and culture, using the Diversity Informed Tenets for Work with Infants, Children and Families. IMH work may be universal promotion, targeted prevention, or the treatment and healing of the effects of trauma experienced by babies and young children.


    We serve in a diverse array of fields, including early care & education, early intervention, child welfare, mental health, social work, psychology, psychiatry, pediatric healthcare and the allied health professions.


    Our FAIMH community includes students studying in these fields, early care and education providers caring for our community's children, early intervention and developmental specialists, mental health providers, case managers and care coordinators, IECMH consultants, healthcare professionals, allied health professionals (physical, occupational & speech/feeding therapists), program specialists, managers and administrators of programs that serve children & families, as well as legislators and systems-level policymakers whose decisions impact the lives of young children and their families. FAIMH members represent a multitude of roles and organizations which all serve infants, young children and their families in various capacities across Florida.


    Who is considered an Infant Mental Health (IMH) Professional?

    • Early learning (child care) providers
    • Home visitors, care coordinators, case managers and other direct service staff
    • Infant mental health practitioners (licensed mental health providers)
    • Developmental psychologists and psychiatrists
    • Coordinating agency staff and leaders (Healthy Start Coalitions, Early Learning Coalitions, Children's Services Councils)
    • Early intervention providers, program staff and leaders (Early Steps)
    • Prenatal and women’s health care providers
    • Pediatricians and nurses (in Mother-Baby units, NICU & PICUs)
    • Community health practitioners
    • Program administrators of programs that serve children 0-5 and their families
    • System leaders whose decisions impact Florida's youngest children and families

    We are dedicated to nurturing the wellbeing of Florida's infants, children and families by supporting and strengthening the infant mental health workforce--that's YOU! 

    Whether you provide direct service to infants, young children and/or their families, or are an administrator or leader that creates programs and policies that impact Florida's most vulnerable families, if you support relationship-based, responsive care and services, and you use reflective practice to hold the baby in mind in all aspects of your work, then you ARE part of our infant mental health workforce!

    Let us come together as one diverse community, connected by our shared purpose and goal of creating a Florida where every child is emotionally healthy, equipped to learn, and nurtured to develop their full potential.

    Don't forget to RSVP for our Celebrate Babies IMH Conversation!

    Weds. October 20th via Zoom at 12pm Eastern/ 11am Central