The Central California Children’s Institute (CCCI) at Fresno State received a $502,000 grant to support clinician training in infant mental health. This three-year funding will be used to improve the practice of Valley service providers in relationship-based, culturally competent clinical care for children up to 5 years old.

The project, Enhancing Cultural Competencies in Clinical Settings (4C Project), will focus primarily on clinicians who work with children exhibiting behavioral and developmental challenges, like lack of vocalization or acting out.

“Children who develop behavioral problems early in their childhood require early attention to reduce the potential long-term impact on a child’s mental health,” said Cassandra Joubert, director of the CCCI. “Because of imaging technology that sees inside the brain, we now know there are neural pathways that develop during early interaction and provide the architecture that shapes the brain. We need to teach practitioners the importance of positive relationships and early experiences for young children, and the implications on their social and mental development.”

The 4C Project is designed to address this need in four phases. The first phase, planning and coordination, is underway. children6The second and third phases will consist of training sessions over the next two years to incorporate neurorelational framework teachings developed by Dr. Connie Lillas, director of the Interdisciplinary Training Institute in Los Angeles County, and the “use of self as a cultural being” concept developed by Dr. Valerie Batts, a psychologist and director of the VISIONS diversity training organization. The final phase is impact evaluation.

The project will be completed in June 2017.

Two cohorts of 48 participants will be enrolled in the training program over two years. Participants will be divided into six teams, each representing a different county in the Valley: Fresno, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced and Tulare.

Each county team will work on various treatment approaches and strategies for helping children and their families with behavioral problems. Teams will include eight clinicians in the fields of pediatrics, occupational therapy, nursing, social work, mental health, education and public health.

children3Joubert hopes this project will serve as a catalyst to increase awareness of infant mental health in the region. “The field of infant mental health is still relatively new. It is an interdisciplinary field of practice that involves so many different disciplines, from child and family studies to psychology to social work. Hopefully having this new community-based training in place will lead to courses in infant mental health being in college curriculum three to five years from now. That would be ideal.”

The project was funded by the Central Valley Regional Center and the Mental Health Services Act in partnership with the California Department of Mental Health and Department of Developmental Services.

The grant covers funding for the program and expenses, including program development, materials and stipends for speakers.

The CCCI works in collaboration with the College of Health and Human Services at Fresno State to provide research and resources to meet the health and human service needs of residents in the Central Valley.

For more information, contact Cassandra Joubert at 559.228.2166.