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A Strength-Based, Systemic Mental Health Approach to Support Children's Social and Emotional Development

Lamb-Parker, Faith PhD; LeBuffe, Paul MS; Powell, Gregg PhD; Halpern, Ellen PhD

Section Editor(s): Gilliam, Walter S. PhD

doi: 10.1097/01.IYC.0000306372.40414.a7

This article stresses the importance of using a strength-based, systemic mental health approach in early childhood settings, specifically in Head Start. Two programs are used as examples of this approach. The Devereux Early childhood Assessment Program is a prevention/intervention that focuses on classroom and teacher strategies linked to an individual assessment tool, the Devereux Early Child Assessment. Relationships for Growth is a universal and targeted intervention that trains teachers to run peer playgroups with children who are exhibiting behavioral challenges to their teachers and/or parents. On-site mental health professionals support and supervise teachers to transfer their new knowledge and skills to their class and throughout the Head Start agency. Both programs emphasize resilience and protective factors over symptomatic behaviors. Both include staff and parent training, assessment strategies, class and individual intervention, and reflective practice, including reflective supervision. Systemic processes are infused in the interventions, providing benefits to children, parents, teachers, classrooms, and preschools. Discussion focuses on how these programs enhance the mandated Head Start Performance Standards for mental health service delivery.

Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York (Drs Lamb-Parker and Halpern), Devereux Foundation (Mr LeBuffe); and R & P Associates, Ltd (Dr Powell).

Corresponding Author: Faith Lamb-Parker, PhD, The Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health (HDPFH), Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, 60 Haven Ave, B-2 New York, NY 10032 (

©2008Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.