The IECMHC Network model reflects a relationship-based approach that emphasizes strengthening relationships among early learning and care providers, families, children, and representatives of the community with systems and resources. When early learning and care providers are supported with strategies, resources, reflective opportunities, and problem-solving support, they are better equipped to provide healthy learning environments for all children and families in their care.
The consultative stance model developed by Kadija Johnston and Charles Brinamen (2006) is one of the most commonly used approaches to incorporating the reflective practice into relationship-based consultation models. The model is comprised of ten elements to describe the consultant’s “way of being” in the consultative relationship. The IECMHC Network consultation model draws from the consultative stance by creating a space that offers early learning and care staff and providers reflective practice opportunities to thoughtfully consider their work and daily practices. In the context of this model, the IECMHC Network reflective consultation involves attending to the feelings and experiences of adults, as well as those of the children, given that learning and change take place within the context of these relationships.
Engaging in reflective practice enables staff and providers to bridge the gap between early childhood knowledge and direct experience, which can result in higher quality early learning and care experiences for all children. Additionally, infant and early childhood mental health consultation increases providers’ competence in responding to children’s behavior and improves their confidence, self-efficacy, and sensitivity while reducing work-related stress and staff turnover (Brennan et al., 2008). The IECMHC Network model incorporates reflective consultation that emphasizes attention to all relationships (i.e., between teacher and child, parent and child, teacher and parent, and consultant and teacher) in the early learning and care program as important.
Reflective consultation focuses on each care provider’s professional and personal development by attending to the emotional content of the work and how reactions to the content affect one’s work. This process places emphasis on the consultant’s capacity to listen and wait, allowing staff and providers to discover solutions, concepts, and perceptions on their own and in collaboration with the consultant. In this way, the IECMHC Network model recognizes that the process of consultation involves being a partner rather than an expert.
How We Work
Consultants offer consultation at the classroom level, working directly with the teacher(s) or home-based provider(s) to foster an environment that promotes children’s social and emotional health and well-being. Consultation enhances teachers’/providers’ abilities to address behavior they find challenging or concerning. Through reflective conversations with the consultant, teachers/providers consider the meaning of young children’s behavior and how their own experiences and beliefs impact the way they respond to children. Using a strength-based approach, consultants guide teachers/providers to develop classroom management and relationship-building strategies to improve their caregiving practices and build their confidence in working with all children and families.
Consultants offer consultation at the programmatic level to help foster a culture that promotes staff development and supportive relationships. Programmatic support includes collaboration with program leaders and staff to develop inclusive and equitable policies and procedures that reflect a commitment to serving all children and families. Consultation may involve training for staff and/or families on supporting children’s social, emotional, and behavioral health and fostering healthy relationships between young children and the adults who care for them.