Illinois Infant/Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation (I/ECMHC)

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Brief History of Infant/Early Childhood Mental Health in Illinois
Infant/Early Childhood Mental Health (I/ECMH) has been rooted in Illinois since the early 2000s. In 2003, the Illinois Children's Mental Health Partnership was created to convene advocates and child-serving institutions. In 2014, the Irving B. Harris Foundation convened stakeholders, practitioners, and thought leaders to develop the Illinois Action Plan to integrate I/ECMH into child-serving systems. In 2015, the Infant/Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation (I/ECMHC) Initiative was created to plan and guide the Pilot Evaluation. In 2018, Chapin Hall began evaluating the Illinois Model; for the initial review of the Pilot Evaluation, click here. In 2020, the Initiative transitioned to the Governor's Office of Early Childhood Development (GOECD) who will convene the State's I/ECMHC Leadership Team. The lessons learned from the final Pilot Evaluation Report will shape how the State invests in I/ECMHC across early childhood education and care (ECEC) and support the development of a robust I/ECMHC workforce. 

Early childhood education and care (ECEC) providers play a critical role in cultivating the social/emotional development of very young children, which is foundational and has a life-long impact. Children and families connect with early childhood programs in different ways because each family's needs are unique. Infant/Early Childhood Mental Health Consultants (I/ECMHC) enhance the early childhood workforce's response to the evolving developmental needs of children.

Consultants partner with early childhood programs to build capacity in strengthening responsive learning and nurturing environments that include home, classroom, and other program settings. Consultation is primarily an indirect service that boosts the work of those directly involved in the support and education of very young children and their families. Consultants work along the promotion, prevention, and intervention continuum with activities across the spectrum. 

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Programs are encouraged to connect with their consultant when they observe a pattern of experiences that need to be interrupted or promoted with early childhood staff or across early learning settings. Children learn and heal within the context of relationships, and consultation work aims to include all the important adults in the child's life. Reflective consultation and job-embedded professional development are essential to growing the early childhood workforce in response to new experiences. The consultant may go beyond the available setting and engage with staff and families in identifying strategies when a child is experiencing social/emotional dysregulation and requires more intervention. This plan may involve problem solving with all invested parties, identifying resources, or making a referral to a community-based therapeutic intervention to provide ongoing/long-term support to the child and family. 


In 2020, Chapin Hall completed a multi-year Infant/Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation Pilot Evaluation across home visiting and center-based early childhood education and care (ECEC)  programs in the Chicagoland area and Peoria. An Executive Summary and final report will be made available in early 2021. 

Another evaluation conducted by the Illinois Children's Mental Health Partnership details the benefits of utilizing Infant/Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation in Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) programs.  

Ongoing Activities between Infant/Early Childhood Mental Health Consultants and Programs

  • Reflective Consultation (relationship-based and a strengthens-based orientation)
  • Observation, screening, assessment, and strategizing
  • Providing professional development opportunities
  • Co-facilitation of groups
  • Direct meetings with families 

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Benefit of Consultation

  • Supports nurturing parent-child relationships
  • Supports the development of the child's social and emotional skills
  • Reduces preschool expulsions and suspensions
  • Supports the individuals who work closely with very young children
  • Assists in collaboratively problem-solving issues that interfere with successful early childhood growth and development across settings
  • Supports the quality of the workforce by increasing retention rates of early childhood professionals
    • Reduces burn-out, compassion fatigue, thereby increasing job retention
  • Enhances reflective capacity of direct service providers and administrators

Learn more about the Illinois Model of Infant/Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation.

Key I/ECMHC Resources