Date of this Version
Pittenger, S., Van Dyk, T., Schreier, A., Haikalis, M., Flood, M. F., & Hansen, D. J. (2015). Expanding mental health consultation in Early Head Start: Recommendations for supporting home visitors in increasing parental engagement. NHSA Dialog: The Research-to-Practice Journal for the Early Childhood Field, 18, 119-135
Early Head Start strongly emphasizes the importance of intervening with the entire family to promote healthy child development. Parents, in particular, are recognized as their child’s most important teacher. While Early Head Start performance standards currently mandate mental health consultation to identify and intervene with child mental health problems, there is little direct focus on the role of consultation in managing parental mental health concerns. This is problematic given that a wide body of literature outlines the impact of parental mental health on engagement in home-based programs such as Early Head Start. Investigations within the home visiting field have also shown persistent requests from staff for further support in addressing these barriers to engagement. Mental health professionals can be instrumental in providing support and education to home visitors dealing with parental mental health concerns, although formal guidelines are generally silent on best practices for establishing and maintaining effective consultation relationships. This Dialog from the Field discusses the issues posed to family engagement by parent-related problems such as mental illness. Synthesizing experience from consultation provided to an Early Head Start program with research from the field, we present a model expanding mental health consultation to address parent and family concerns.