A Credential in Infant Mental Health

New Yorkers working with young children will soon have a way to prove to employers and clients their savviness in infant mental health.

In an effort to build a workforce that is more responsive to the social emotional needs of young children, a committee composed of New York State early childhood advocates and experts have taken the first steps to bring to New York what’s called the Michigan Association for Mental Health Endorsement System – a credentialing system for professionals and paraprofessionals working with young children.

Using a small grant from a private foundation, the newly created New York State Association for Infant Mental Health, which is based at Adelphi University's Institute for Parenting, now holds the license to use the Michigan Association's system. In the next few months they will meet with the Michigan Association to strategize a roll out for the credentialing system in New York State. Candace Cucharo of Adelphi University’s Institute for Parenting expects early childhood workers to be able to receive endorsement sometime during 2016, and optimistically predicts that about 120 will receive an endorsement soon after the system launches.  

The Michigan System has already been adopted in about 20 other states. Its impact—as well as the impact of similar endorsements--has not been formally evaluated, but one small survey found that in Colorado, where just over 20 professionals have received the Michigan endorsement, endorsed professionals felt that the credential had improved their job knowledge, confidence, professional status and the quality of supports they provide to families as a result, among other things.

In other states CK the Michigan Endorsement has helped endorsed clinicians secure Medicaid reimbursement for infant mental health treatment. LINK TO GAIL’S STORY

But its reach has, so far, been modest. As of August of last year, only about 1000 individuals nationwide had received an endorsement from the Michigan system, according to a 2014 report by the Institute for Parenting, with about 1000 more in the process.

It remains to be seen how it will play out in New York. Most likely, participation in the endorsement system will be voluntary, says Cucharo, and so the New York State Association for Infant Mental Health must find ways to make it sustainable as well as appealing to early childhood workers, including those in the child care sector—a notoriously overworked and underpaid bunch.