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Infant/Early Childhood Mental Health Endorsement® Overview

What is Infant & Early Childhood Mental Health?

Infant mental health (IMH) refers to how well a child develops socially and emotionally from birth to age 3 (IMH) and up to age 6 (ECMH). Social development includes the ability to form healthy relationships with others whereas emotional development includes the experience of feelings about self and others, with a range of positive and negative emotions, as well as the ability to control and regulate feelings in culturally appropriate ways. 

VAIMH believes that what happens in the early years matters forever. We know that the first years of life provide the basis for children's relationships and wellbeing across the lifespan. Studies have shown that attachment problems in infancy and early childhood increase the probability of mental health and behavioral concerns later in life.  

The development of self-worth, self-confidence, and self-regulation are important features of early social-emotional development and is essential for later success in school and life. 

VAIMH has been supporting professionals in the infant and early childhood mental health field since it was founded as a non-profit organization in 2010. If you wish to know more about the IECMH-Endorsement, please contact Virginia's Endorsement Coordinator, Kristen Stahr, at khstahr@vcu.edu.  

Endorsement is the internationally recognized credential for culturally sensitive relationship-focused practice.

The Virginia Association for Infant Mental Health (VAIMH) is an interdisciplinary, non-profit professional organization established to nurture and promote the optimal development of infants, toddlers, young children, and families through education, relationship-based training, and advocacy efforts. 

Endorsement® through VAIMH demonstrates specialization in the infant-early childhood mental health (IECMH) field. It supports and recognizes the development of professionals who work with or on behalf of pregnant people, infants, young children, and their families, and is intended to recognize experiences that lead to a competency in the rapidly expanding infant/early childhood-family field. Endorsement® is cross-sector and multidisciplinary, consisting of professionals from child and/or human development, education, nursing, pediatrics, psychiatry, psychology, social work, and others. Endorsement® indicates an individual's efforts to specialize in the promotion and practice of infant or early childhood mental health within his/her own chosen discipline. 

 

History  

Endorsement was developed by Michigan's Association for Infant Mental Health (MI-AIMH) in 2002 and is now used by 35 state associations of infant mental health (AIMHs) and two international associations as of January 2024. Each of those AIMHs is a member of the Alliance for the Advancement of Infant Mental Health

Who should apply?

The Endorsement credential is intended for everyone who applies IECMH principles in their work across the full continuum of promotion, prevention/early intervention, clinical intervention/treatment, and macro scopes of practice. 

Why apply?

Earning Endorsement® demonstrates to employers and peers that you have completed specialized education, work, in-service training, and reflective supervision/consultation experiences (as defined in Endorsement® criteria) that have led to competency in culturally sensitive, relationship-focused practice that promotes IECMH. 

Endorsement® focuses on principles, best practice skills, and reflective work experiences that lead to increased confidence and credibility in supporting infants, young children, families, students, agencies, and institutions in the promotion of IECMH.

The categories of endorsement are tied to scope of practice. 

Infant/Early Childhood Family Associate (IFA/ECFA): Professionals who work directly with pregnant people, infants, toddlers, young children, and their families, or within a program that supports this population in order to promote optimal social emotional development and/or early relational health. This category includes early care and education providers, administrators, case managers, child welfare staff, healthcare professionals, and more.  

Infant/Early Childhood Family Specialist (IFS/ECFS): Professionals who work directly with pregnant people, infants, toddlers, young children and their families, or within a program that supports this population in order to prevent relationship disturbances or disorders of infancy/early childhood. This category includes early care and education professionals, home visitors, early intervention providers, mental health consultants, infant-toddler/young child technical assistants, childcare coaches, and more.  

Infant/Early Childhood Mental Health Specialist (IMHS/ECMHS): Professionals who work directly with pregnant people, infants, toddlers, young children, and their families, or within a program that supports this population, and  provide treatment and/or intervention when relational disturbances or disorders of infancy and early childhood arise. This category includes infant/young child-parent psychotherapists, private practice therapists, clinical home visitors, other mental health providers, and more. Mental Health Specialists may also be providers of reflective supervision/consultation. [The Mental Health Specialist - Deborah Weatherston, Ph.D.]

Infant Early Childhood Mental Health Mentor (IMHM/ECMHM): These are leaders in the field with many years' experience providing reflective supervision or administrative oversight within programs, teaching in higher education settings, shaping policy, and/or conducting research that addresses social emotional development, early relational health and/or the treatment of infants, toddlers, young children, and their caregivers.

a. Clinical: Leader in infant/early childhood mental health (e.g., I/EC mental health supervisor, trainer, or consultant);

b. Policy: Leader in policy and/or program administration related to the infant/young child-family field;

c. Research/Faculty: Leader in university-level teaching and/or published research related to the infant/young child-family field.

Endorsement® is meant to honor professionals who apply infant and early childhood mental health principles to their practice. It is granted through documentation and verification of the required specialized education, work, in-service training, and reflective supervision/consultation experiences. Endorsement® is not a license, but an overlay that complements one's professional license and/or other credentials. 

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I/ECMH Endorsement
Category Requirements Overviews

Click on the tabs below to learn more about each endorsement category.

Endorsed Reflective Supervisor Add-On
New in 2024

The Endorsed Reflective Supervisor credential is an "add-on" for Family Specialist (FS) and Mental Health Specialist (MHS) endorsees to document their experiences and skills in providing Reflective Supervision/Consultation.

Professionals Endorsed as FS-ERS or MHS-ERS can provide qualifying hours of RSC to any category of Endorsement except Mental Health Mentor-Clinical endorsees and applicants. (See Reflective Supervision tab, or the ERS tab above, for more information.)

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