This article describes the development, implementation, and outcomes of a pilot intervention designed to enhance preschool programs’ ability to support children’s social-emotional development. Working with two Head Start programs, the intervention included (1) restructuring existing early childhood mental health consultation services; (2) engaging programs in a mental health-specific strategic planning; (3) providing training to program staff in early childhood mental health best practices; and (4) implementing staff wellness activities to promote a healthy organizational culture. Research Findings: Results from quantitative staff surveys found significant improvement over time in terms of reduced staff stress, increased levels of understanding of best practices in early childhood mental health, and more evidence of a shared understanding of how best to meet children’s mental health needs. Results were strongest for management and teaching staff, compared to other staff types. Practice Implications: Head Start and preschool programs may benefit from institutionalizing strategies to ensure that continued attention is paid to their program’s mental health services through ongoing strategic planning, supporting staff wellness, and by effective use of mental health consultants. Mental health consultants may be most valuable when they focus on capacity-building activities such as staff coaching and training, and working with management teams to ensure a collective “mental health perspective”.
Associated StaffBeth L. Green
Anna M. Malsch