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Linking Mental Health and Child Care and Early Education Services
A Key Topic Resource List

Publication Date: August 2007

This Key Topic Resource List on Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems (ECCS) was compiled by Research Connections .

Research Connections conducted a comprehensive search of its collection for resources focused on linking mental health and child care and early education services. This Key Topic Resource List includes an overview of the topic, as well as a listing of selected resources on the topic.

From the many results, Research Connections selected a limited number of resources of various types—including reports and papers, fact sheets and briefs, summaries, and reviews. Selection criteria included policy relevance and relatively recent publication. Based on the search results, resources were grouped into the following three categories:

  • Links between Child Mental Health and Child Care and Early Education Services
  • Mental Health Consultation in Child Care and Early Education
  • Mental Health Services in Head Start/Early Head Start

Within each category, resources are organized according to publisher type and publication date. Research Connections' one-sentence description is included for each resource on the following list. For complete citations, which include abstracts and full text for some resources, click on the titles.

Overview

The early years are crucial for the healthy social-emotional development and mental health of children. Social-emotional skills set the stage for exploration and readiness to learn, and constitute the foundation for all later development. Through interactions with caregivers, adults, and children around them, children’s mental health is fostered or hindered. Comprehensive support to early childhood programs, families, and communities is imperative to address a range of children’s mental health needs and to promote their positive social-emotional development.

Literature on this topic addresses child care as a support for parents of children with mental health needs and discusses the effectiveness of strategies to promote mental health in child care settings. Research highlights risk factors in early childhood that predict adverse behavior and academic outcomes, evaluates outcomes of existing policies and programs designed to promote children’s emotional adjustment, describes effective initiatives and methods of intervention, and offers policymakers and administrators a variety of choices for confronting this issue. Also characteristic of this literature and research is a heavy discussion of Head Start programs, interventions, and services for children and families.

Research on the linkages between mental health and child care and early education services addresses questions such as the following:

  • What makes children socially and emotionally ready for school? What are the characteristics, practices, and organizational factors of child care programs that are associated with quality care for children with emotional or behavioral disorders?
  • What program-friendly tools can be used to accurately assess young children’s level of emotional development? At what age should services and interventions begin?
  • What skills and experiences should be required of mental health professionals in order for services to be provided across the continuum of promotion, prevention, and intervention? How could training and professional development systems be improved to educate them better on relationship-based mental health practices?
  • What are the lessons learned from the evaluation of Head Start and Early Head Start strategies, and what are the implications for policy, practice, and research?
  • What kinds of investments should policymakers be advised to make? To which age-group(s) of children and to what types of settings should funds be directed?
  • How can access to and coordination of services be increased so that families receive the services and supports they need immediately rather than relying on later interventions?

For more information or additional Key Topic Resource Lists, please go to the Research Connections website.