How Mental Health
Consultants Promote School Readiness

Mental health professionals play a critical role in supporting positive adult-child relationships. They also promote child, family, and staff well-being, and children's social-emotional development. These are all central aspects of children's school readiness.

Grantees and delegate agencies must secure the services of a mental health consultant. Infant/Early Childhood Mental Health (I/ECMH) Consultation is a multi-level preventive intervention. It teams mental health professionals with people who work with young children and their families to improve their social, emotional, and behavioral health and development.

The Head Start Approach to School Readiness includes three major frameworks:

Together, they help staff understand school readiness. Each framework supports individualizing health and disabilities services to meet the needs of all children and families.

Steps to School Readiness

  1. Support the School Readiness Team as They Establish Goals for Improving School Readiness Across Domains

  2. Create and Implement an Action Plan for Achieving Established School Readiness Goals

  3. Assess Child Progress on an Ongoing Basis and Aggregate and Analyze Data Throughout the Year

    • Support teachers, caregivers, home visitors, and family service workers to gather information about any mental health concerns of children in order to best assess, aggregate, and analyze child progress [PDF, 7.1MB].
    • Collaborate with education staff and disabilities, mental health, and health partners to develop adaptations or accommodations to support participation of children with disabilities and mental health concerns in child assessment.
    • Work with health and mental health partners to gather additional assessment data about these children.
    • Look for particular support strategies that are important to consider when working with dual language learners (DLLs) and their families.
  4. Examine Data for Patterns of Progress for Groups of Children to Revise, Develop, and Implement Plans for Program Improvement

    • Use the information from child assessment data to inform program self-assessment and improve services.
    • Use mental health data and data collected on child and family risk and protective factors over time to understand how mental health, risk, and protective factors impact child school readiness.
    • Ensure the program has a comprehensive approach to supporting children's social-emotional development, early childhood mental health, and family engagement.
    • Explore the Observation Toolkit for Mental Health Consultants for tips and strategies.

Resources

Resources to Address Challenging Behaviors

Creating Teaching Tools for Young Children with Challenging Behavior provides easily accessible ideas and materials to support children in the classroom and other learning environments.

Facilitating Individualized Interventions to Address Challenging Behavior: Toolkit assists mental health consultants in guiding teachers, teams, and families in developing and implementing an individualized plan of support that results in a reduction of challenging behavior and the promotion of communication and social skills.

Resources for Observation and Screening

The Observation Toolkit for Mental Health Consultants provides an observation checklist and system consultants can use to help teachers and program managers to use the Teaching Pyramid framework.

Screening for Social-Emotional Concerns: Considerations in the Selection of Instruments [PDF, 7.1MB] offers practical information and provides references to more complete descriptions of validated assessment and intervention practices.

Recognizing and Supporting the Social and Emotional Development of Young Children Birth to Age Five offers staff a detailed understanding of the behaviors related to social and emotional health in infants and young children. Find strategies that parents and caregivers can use to support these behaviors within everyday routines in the home and in early care and education settings.

Building Executive Function Skills in Children and Adults Broadcast Call is part of the Front Porch Series. It describes the definitions and development of executive function, as well as how adults can support children within early learning environments.

Resources to Support Mental Health and Social-Emotional Wellness

The Center on the Social Emotional Foundations for Early Learning provides extensive, user-friendly training materials, videos, and print resources to help early care, health, and education providers implement this model.

Everyday Ideas for Increasing Children's Opportunities to Practice Social Skills and Emotional Competencies is organized by the type of skill targeted when using the strategy: emotions, friendship, problem-solving, and handling anger and other difficult emotions. For each set of strategies, there are daily ideas which require relatively little planning, weekly ideas that require training and materials, and ideas that can be sent home with families.

Practical Strategies for Teachers: Tools that Encourage Young Children's Social-Emotional Development [PDF, 320KB] includes a variety of activities and materials to help children promote self-regulation and problem-solving.

Stories from the Field

Last Reviewed: February 2017

Last Updated: February 22, 2017