The social and emotional developmental needs of babies and toddlers are important and need to be understood by those working with this age group. This will be one of the key messages at the official launch this week of Competency Guidelines for those working with very young children and their carers.
The guidelines are being launched by the Irish Association for Infant Mental Health (I-AIMH) a registered charity established by a range of health professionals to promote greater awareness and understanding of the science of infant mental health in Ireland. Infant mental health is fast becoming a very significant public health issue, spurred on by a growing field of compelling research and practice.
The Competency Guidelines, entitled ‘Promoting Infant Mental Health – Endorsement for Culturally Sensitive Relationship-Focused Practice”, offer a professional framework for the workforce of practitioners who work with babies, young children and their parents/care givers practice for those working with babies and toddlers, (e.g. Public Health Nurses, GPs and Creche / Pre-school workers) to advance infant mental health knowledge, best practice skills and promote the development of reflective practice experiences within the work settings.
“The issue of mental health has thankfully been given much greater prominence in our society in recent times. The aim of I-AIMH is to ensure that our babies and toddlers are included in the debate about the importance of mental health”, according to Marie MacSweeney, President of I-AIMH.
The launch of the Competency Guidelines takes place in the Mansion House, Dublin and is hosted by I-AIMH and will include 2 invited infant mental health experts, Dr. Deborah J. Weatherston, Executive Director and Ms. Nichole Paradis, Endorsement Director at the Alliance for the Advancement of Infant Mental Health, Michigan, USA.
The launch will be followed by a showcasing of infant mental health already in action in Ireland in a range of settings including the Young Knocknaheeny Area Based Childhood Programme in Cork city, a Primary Care setting in South Tipperary and Holles St. Maternity Hospital in Dublin. These presentations will emphasise the pivotal role played by frontline services in promoting positive infant mental health. Later in the proceedings, the importance of reflective supervision in this work will be discussed and a live supervision session will take place.
“The first three years of a child’s life provides us with a tremendous opportunity to affect change due to the plasticity of the brain. We need to start early and to pay greater attention to the mental health of our babies from day one as it affects them for the rest of their lives. This is exactly why we are trying to inform, educate and guide those who work with babies and toddlers in order to support the parent-baby relationship so that they have the best possible start in life”, stated Catherine Maguire, Infant Mental Health Specialist and co-founder of I-AIMH.
Infant Mental Health is an interdisciplinary field of practice and a relatively new field of practice within Ireland. Much of the focus of the I-AIMH since its establishment has been to enable practitioners reach their potential in the promotion of caregiver-infant relationships during the pivotal early developmental stage in order to reduce the prevalence of infant mental health problems. These guidelines which will sit within the I-AIMH will now provide an incredibly useful framework for all in order to help shape and develop workforce capacity even further in this exciting and worthwhile area.