What is the Role of the Family in ECMH Consultation?

What is the Role of the Family in ECMH Consultation?

Kindergarten teacher and children looking at bird's nest in libr

Now that we know research supports the importance of partnering with families, how does this happen within early childhood mental health consultation?


Check off all of the ways in which you feel families can be involved with you and their child’s caregivers throughout the consultation process:

  •  Gathering and sharing information about children through observation and conversations
  •  Completing assessments of children’s behavior
  •  Planning strategies for children within the care setting (e.g. classroom, family child care, etc.)
  •  Planning strategies for children within the home setting
  •  Following through with strategies
  •  Attending training on topics related to social emotional development
  •  Assessing effectiveness of consultation

Families can be a part of all of the activities listed above. Cohen and Kaufman (2005) state: “Families are considered to be full participants in all aspects of the design, implementation, and evaluation for programs and services for their young children. It is important for consultants to have a strong value toward family partnerships and a clear vision as to how family involvement might progress.”

Children’s greatest resource is their family.

Howard Mandeville

Head Start/Early Head Start performance standards related to child mental health include many of the activities listed above. Staff at grantee and delegate agencies must work collaboratively with parents to:

  • Solicit parental information, observations, and concerns about their child’s mental health (1304.24 (a) (1) i);
  • Share observations of their child and discuss and anticipate with parents their child’s behavior and development, including separation and attachment issues (1304.24 (a) (1)i i);
  • Discuss and identify with parents appropriate responses to their child’s behaviors (1304.24 (a) (1) iii);
  • Discuss how to strengthen nurturing, supportive environments and relationships in the home and at the program (1304.24 (a) (1) iv);
  • Help parents to better understand mental health issues (1304.24 (a) (1) v); and
  • Support parents’ participation in any needed mental health interventions (1304.24 (a) (1) vi).

These performance standards can be found by going to the Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center and clicking on the Head Start tab.

For a more thorough explanation of the consultants role, see Tutorial 2: Defining Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation and the Consultants Role, Module 2.

Specifically, early childhood mental health consultants can play an important role in helping caregivers to engage in all of the above practices with families through modeling and through direct contact with families during the consultative process. Consultants can set the expectation up front for family involvement by letting caregivers know that it is a critical component of effective services and is a core value of consultation. To accomplish these activities successfully requires strong partnerships among the consultant, caregivers and parents! A goal of consultation is to help foster relationships between caregivers and families that are sustainable once the consultant is gone.

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This product was developed [in part] under grant number 1H79SM082070-01 from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The views, policies and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of SAMHSA or HHS.