On February 20, 2020, Strategies 2.0 Northern Region convened Part 3, of a four-part series on Early Childhood Mental Health, entitled: Using the Centrality of Relationships as a Protective Factor in Building Resilience: Infusing Early Childhood Mental Health Principles and Practices Across the Care Continuum for Children and Families. The hub location for this session was Lake County Office of Ed in Lakeport, with four counties joining remotely: Humboldt, Mendocino, Modoc, and Shasta, as well as online participants from across the region. Barbara Ivins, UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland, Early Intervention Services, has been presenting each of the sessions. Her expertise draws from research and best practice in the field and her wealth of experience brings each session to life with practical application from real-life and insightful group discussion. The focus of Part 3 was Introducing and Applying a Comprehensive Framework for Understanding Young Children’s Behavior. The framework is based on the premise that “all behavior is communication and has meaning.” Mental health and wellness is demonstrated through behaviors and the cause of behavior, even the same behavior, varies. The Framework addresses 6 areas in which to address behavior: developmental stage, individual differences, the environment, culture, exposure to trauma or toxic stress, and unmet emotional needs. A “challenging behaviors vignette” was discussed among participants to make application of the framework. The presentation also incorporated utilizing an equity lens in implementing the framework, and an equity handout was distributed on the Ten Diversity-Informed Tenets for Work with Infants, Children and Families developed by the Irving Harris Foundation.
The session also considered use of a “word-cloud” to implement common language within the northern region, as related to the mental health of young children and the family strengthening field. In session one of the series, participants brainstormed words/concepts that contributed to optimal conversations with families across family strengthening service delivery. The word cloud included terms such as trust, resilience, encouragement, parents as partners, family empowerment, safe, parallel process, assess rather than assume, equity, etc. These words were also discussed in session two from the perspective of the internal narrative that families have about their own life experiences. It was acknowledged that what we think (say to ourselves) about our experiences can become either a positive or negative resource to us. The group reflected on a useful format to convey the word-cloud as a tangible outcome/product of this series. The group also reflected on how the Framework could be used among colleagues, with suggestions for systems-wide staff training, as well as incorporating it within childcare settings and embedding it within service delivery. Reflective comments also pointed out that more attention is needed in the area of culture and that the framework is a useful tool in being pro-active rather than reactive. It was also mentioned that resources can sometimes be limited, and more written resources would be helpful when addressing challenging situations with children and families. This website was noted as a valuable community resource for the region: http://www.partnershiphp.org/Community/Pages/Community-Resources.aspx