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VAIMH Monthly Newsletter (2.22.2024)

Dear Members,

As we immerse ourselves in the celebration of Black History Month, it's essential to reflect not only on the past struggles and triumphs but also on the present and future opportunities for growth and change. This month, we not only honor the remarkable achievements of Black individuals throughout history but also underscore the importance of their contributions to critical areas like early childhood mental health.

In particular, we celebrate the pioneering work of Black academics who have dedicated their lives to understanding and improving early childhood mental health outcomes. Their research, advocacy, and innovative approaches have helped shape our understanding of how to best support the emotional well-being of our youngest community members. Their contributions serve as a beacon of inspiration and a reminder of the transformative power of knowledge and action.

As we celebrate, it's also crucial to recognize that our work is far from over. We must commit ourselves to ongoing antiracist efforts within our organization and beyond. By actively challenging and dismantling systemic racism in all its forms, we can create a more equitable and inclusive environment where every child has the opportunity to thrive.

Let us use this month as a catalyst for change, renewing our commitment to learning, growing, and working together to build a brighter future for all.

-Dr. Anjali Ferguson

Executive Director


VAIMH Advocacy Day - 1/12/2024

"From Cradle to Connection: Nurturing Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Through Connection"

In January several VAIMH members from across the state convened in Richmond, VA for our inaugural advocacy day. Due to their significant efforts, VAIMH was able to meet with over 15 legislators/legislative staff to emphasize the importance of infant and early childhood mental health. Governor Youngkin has passed a recent proposal to dedicate over $400 million towards early childhood initiatives in the state. To date, the proposed initiatives do not include mental health funding. You can learn more about the plan here. Our members began to lay a foundation with legislators to advocate for the importance of funding directed towards these mental health needs for early childhood populations. We plan to build on this momentum to request tangible policies to further IECMH across the state.

Thank you to our wonderful advocates for representing VAIMH and the mission so well.


Member Spotlight

Shemik Sellars

My name is Shemik Sellars, and I own and operate a licensed in-home preschool in North Chesterfield, VA. I began working in childcare at the age of 16 and transitioned from sitter services, to nanny care, and now early childhood education. I explored other career opportunities over the years, but early care and childhood education have proven to be my passion and what fills my cup the most. I opened my program in September of 2020 and I’m so proud of the services we offer and the community we have been able to build. A huge part of our program framework has an emphasis on social and emotional wellness. I hold a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in psychology and I wanted to explore more learning opportunities that could help me advance my knowledge to apply to my program services. In my professional field, I noticed that there was often a gap in the 0-5 age demographic as it pertained to mental health work and practices within the early education framework. I wanted to advance my skillset and offer children more than the traditional facets of learning. Partnering with VAIMH has provided me with an amazing opportunity to advance my skills in the realm and infant and early childhood mental health. I enjoy the opportunities to collaborate with other professionals of VAIMH, it has made me feel a strong sense of community and a renewed purpose with my work. I truly believe that through the work of mental health, I can tend to all the needs of the children in my care. It’s important for me to ensure that our program meets children’s academic needs, but it is even more important for me that I ensure their emotional needs are met and I help them develop a solid sense of self in a safe and nurturing environment. For me, mental health work sets the foundation for all aspects of the work that I do. I am grateful for the opportunities I have had the past 23 years working with children and I look forward to continuing to offer exceptional services and care centered around infant and early childhood mental health practices.


Science Spotlight

Social Determinants of Health: the Impact of Racism on Early Childhood Mental Health

“Longitudinal studies provide evidence that very young children are highly influenced by exposure to multiple and interconnecting levels of racism and discrimination. These forms of exposure (structural and personally mediated, which can be further divided into direct and indirect exposure) are particularly nefarious to young children’s socioemotional development.“

Download PDF • 487KB

Making the “C-ACE” for a Culturally-Informed Adverse Childhood Experiences Framework to Understand the Pervasive Mental Health Impact of Racism on Black Youth

“…we present a culturally-informed Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) model, or “C-ACE”, to understand the pervasive and deleterious mental health impact of racism on Black youth. This model extends the ACE framework by noting the significance of racism as an ACE exposure risk factor, a distinct ACE category, and a determinant of post-ACE mental health outcomes among Black youth. The model acknowledges and supports the advancement of ACEs research that takes a culturally informed approach to understanding the intergenerational and multilevel impact of racism on the mental health of Black youth.”


Self-Care Through Play

Time for us to practice what we preach! It is easy to ignore our own needs in the context of busy lives, work, and our own parenting demands. We can't pour from an empty cup, so here are some ways to tap into our inner child this month as a way to take care of ourselves while we tackle this necessary and challenging work.

February Tip: Reflect on your cultural traditions

Take some time to reflect on the cultural traditions that have shaped your life. Consider the rituals, customs, and practices that have been passed down through generations in your family or community.

Now, think about how you can incorporate elements of these traditions into your self-care routine through play and reflection. Is there a particular tradition that brings you joy or comfort? How can you adapt it to suit your current needs and lifestyle?

Perhaps it's cooking a traditional meal, practicing a cultural dance, or participating in a meaningful ceremony. Whatever it may be, explore ways to infuse your self-care practice with the richness of your cultural heritage.

As you engage in these activities, pay attention to how they make you feel. Notice any emotions, memories, or insights that arise. Use this time for both play and reflection, allowing yourself to connect more deeply with your roots and nurture your overall well-being.


Upcoming Trainings and News

Registration is open for the Infant Mental Health and Attachment Course, a unique professional development opportunity for professionals working with young children, birth to age six, and their families in Virginia!

The course is being offered in the spring and fall.

  • Spring 2024: 6 Thursday-evening sessions from April 11 - May 6, 2024 (5:15 - 8:15 PM) EST

  • Fall 2024: 6 Thursday-evening sessions from September 5 - October 10, 2024 (5:15 - 8:15 PM) EST

For more information or to register, please see the attached flyer or click here:

Please help us spread the word and share this with others who you think would be interested!

As you will learn in the course, Infant Mental Health principles focus on attachment, family systems, family centered practices and trauma-informed approaches. They guide us to think about babies, toddlers, and preschoolers as they exist within the context of their culture, communities, and their relationships. They help us understand the critical role relationships and a secure attachment play in a child’s overall development, school readiness, and success in later life.

This course is designed to dig deeper into attachment and share practical applications and specific strategies that can be applied and used in your everyday work with young children and families.

The multiple challenges facing families today also create challenges for us as service providers. How can we best meet the needs of the young children with whom we work? Research on the development of individuals from infancy through adulthood tells us that using an infant mental health informed approach enables us to provide highly effective intervention strategies.


Copyright (C) 2024 VAIMH.  All rights reserved.

PO Box 3151

Glen Allen, VA 23058

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