Babies are born ready to experience the world. They rely on consistent, caring adults to meet their needs. When they are hungry, tired, scared, ready for a diaper change, and just want to be with others, babies let adults know through crying or other means of communication.
Through the Riley Child Development Center – Indiana LEND, Stephan Viehweg has been an advocate for a statewide approach to partner with families to support their kids. He is the founding chair of Infancy Onward, Indiana’s infant mental health association (a subsidiary of Mental Health America Indiana and an affiliate of the World Association for Infant Mental Health). With the support of the state’s ECCS collaboration efforts, Indiana has implemented the Infant Mental Health Endorsement which gives any provider working with young children the opportunity to claim their knowledge and experience against a set of competencies around early childhood mental health. Indiana is one of 23 states participating in the Alliance for the Advancement of Infant Mental Health offering this competency based endorsement.
Indiana’s vision is that any child in any community will be supported by professionals that can identify, refer, diagnose, treat and support any type of social emotional delay. Why? Because we know that the first three years of a child’s life are a time of great opportunity and great vulnerability. Developmental skills gained early set the stage for children to regulate their emotions, trust others, follow directions, and build relationships. These critical skills allow a child to be ready for school, to graduate, and ultimately get a job, move out, and become contributors to their communities!
Although Indiana has come a long way, there is much work to do and the path has not always been easy. One important lesson learned is the value of periodically pausing to reflect on the current status of kids and families. That’s why the Indiana team of parents and professionals working to adopt the endorsement wrote several white papers discussing the progress made and the work yet to be done. These documents have been very helpful to realize and appreciate the progress made toward the goals whiling making the case to policy and decision makers to continue the path to full implementation. Equally important, though, is celebration. And celebration with cake and ice cream is key to recognizing a job well done.
The AUCD network provides ready access to a wealth of research, evidence based programs, and ideas to improve the lives of infants and toddlers and their families. These tools help the Indiana team make their dream a reality. Steve’s passion for policy and advocacy guided him to obtain the Infant Mental Health Policy Mentor level of endorsement. Although getting decision makers to buy into policies and programs that help children succeed is a hard sell, the choice for Steve is easy.
Stephan Viehweg, MSW, LCSW, IMH-E®(IV-P)
Riley Child Development Center
Indiana LEND, Associate Director
IUPUI Center for Translating Research Into Practice