Jun 15, 2024  
Academic Catalog 2022-2023 
Academic Catalog 2022-2023 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Infant, Child, and Family Mental Health and Development, MA

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Experiences in early childhood (0-8 years of age) profoundly affect lifelong trajectories (Fry, Fang, et al (2017); Nelson & Gabard-Durnam (2020); Petrucelli, Davis, & Berman, 2019); Sciaraffa, Zeanah and Zeanah, (2018); Shonkoff et al, 2006). In fact, children’s executive functions at 4 years of age predict their academic success as young adults (Alloway & Alloway, 2010; Borella, Carretti, & Pelegrina, 2010). Research also indicates that while we are born with the potential to develop specific strengths and weaknesses, nurture determines how they will develop (Diamond, 2010). In large part, this is because primary relationships and early life experiences directly affect brain architecture, which networks will be reinforced, and which will get pruned. As this early period of development has long-term ramifications, medical, mental health, and allied health communities as well as educators have increased their focus on this critical period. However, many professionals working with the 0- 8 age range are not sufficiently trained for the challenges they face with our youngest populations and families. Often, education and training programs lack the mental health and relationship-based components necessary to effectively assess, intervene, and build the type of child and family alliances needed to facilitate optimal care, treatment, and well-being.

Even in infants and children not considered to be at high risk, there is a wide range of what is considered “typical” behavior, based on individual differences and cultural influences. This too, presents professional challenges. Consequently, many states are requiring Infant Mental Health State Endorsements, fellowships and/or continuing education/certification with infant mental health competencies in a move to embrace a deeper understanding of both development and working with diverse families. While many recognize the need for better education and training, currently there are limited options for professionals to receive the necessary specialized education and reflective training that integrates culturally-informed, relationship-based, mental health practices.  The ICFMHD program emphasizes an integrated, interprofessional, multiple-system, relationship-based, and reflective approach to developmental capacities.

Program educational goals are to develop graduates who:

  1. Effectively use research to inform practice: Demonstrate the ability to understand, integrate, and apply research that advances the fields of infant and early childhood development including child & family mental health.
  2. Develop programs, policies, and procedures that contribute to advanced knowledge and implementation of evidence-based practice: Design programs, policies, and procedures in the fields of infant mental health and child development with an interdisciplinary/interprofessional, relationship-based framework, including but not limited to communicating ideas and information at professional levels both verbally and in writing.
  3. Develop and build interprofessional reflective practices that are culturally informed and integrate the application of equity, inclusion, and social justice: Promote institutional, professional practice, and advocacy reform that facilitates relationship-based approaches while respecting individual, biological, neurological, cultural, family, and community differences.

This degree is beneficial to graduates applying for jobs in infant and early childhood mental health fields. Because this degree is multidisciplinary, the job outlook will be diversified dependent upon student background/discipline).

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