Wyoming Cares about Your Child’s Social Emotional Health
For the past several years, social-emotional issues associated with infants and preschool children have become more evident nation-wide, including Wyoming. Expulsions from child care and preschool due to behavioral problems have been increasing, and extensive research demonstrates that the lack of appropriate attention adversely affects the misbehaving child as well as all of the other infants and preschoolers in the class. These studies also indicate that timely interventions convey a lifetime of benefits to the child, family and community.
In partnership with the Behavioral Health Division and the Youth Consultation Service Institute for Infant and Preschool Mental Health (YCS) in New Jersey, CDS pioneered the creation of a statewide early childhood social-emotional development program in Wyoming from 2005-09. During this four year period, the three partners defined a model that met the state’s needs and built it slowly until it was a functioning, statewide system of service delivery. The effort concluded successfully in August 2009.
Here is how it works. The system employs a train-the-trainer model that includes three tiers of services. The complexity of the social-emotional issue determines the tier, or level, of intervention. They range from routine (Tier 1), which is the most common and are usually treated within the context of the early childhood setting, to more complex (Tier 2) and chronic (Tier 3), which is the rarest and warrants pullout services or separate services by professionals. All interventions are family oriented.
The Wyoming legislature appropriates funds annually to the developmental preschools to retain the early childhood professionals or licensed mental health clinicians to manage this system. Following the train-the-trainer model, they offer free training on infant and preschool social-emotional development to frontline early childhood service providers throughout the state, including daycare. The fifteen training modules offer instruction on positive social-emotional development, relationship-building and routine classroom interventions. The follow-up training instruction with individualized technical assistance is to assist child care providers and preschool teachers implement approaches and deal with specific cases.
The developmental preschools also provide direct services for the more complex cases. For the most severe (or top tier) issues, the preschool programs either provide direct counseling through a licensed clinician on staff or refer the child and family to a professional in the community, usually through a regional mental health center or private professional.
Four years of extensive data gathering proved this model is effective statewide in the services it provides. It is a good fit for Wyoming’s rural environment of small communities separated by miles of open spaces. The training and services are offered through child development centers in 46 community centers.
The three partners also worked with the University of Wyoming’s College of Education to develop two post-graduate certificate programs in early childhood mental health. One is geared toward early childhood professionals and the other for mental health clinicians. Faculty members at UW instruct the classes, with the first group graduating in 2010.
As a result of program’s work, the Wyoming Association for Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health was formed. It is a professional organization of approximately fifty members that promotes research and training in early childhood mental health.