MSPCC Addresses Early Childhood Mental Health
Increasingly aggressive and misbehaving in class, Ethan was on the verge of being expelled. His behavior had become too dangerous to other children and too disruptive for his teacher to manage. Getting Expelled would take him away from his friends and the stability of a teacher and classroom he was just getting used to—increasing his chances of falling behind his peers. At four years old Ethan was at risk of expulsion from his day care program.
Ethan’s story is all too common. Researchers at Yale University found the expulsion rates for preschoolers, as well as infants and toddlers, to be much higher than that of students from kindergarten through high school. According to the study, an estimated 5,000 preschoolers nationwide are expelled each year.
“We can’t give up on these kids. We need to find the cause of their behavior and address it early so they can have a chance for success,” said Mary McGeown, MSPCC President and CEO.
Experts suggest a solution—to give day care providers access to mental health consultants who can work with teachers and parents to help children with complex emotional and behavioral issues like Ethan. The Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care chose MSPCC to provide that service to day care centers in 50 cities and towns across Northeast Massachusetts.
“We developed a program that not only provides classroom and teacher consultations, but also mental health screening and intervention and family support,” said Dr. Monica Roizner, Director of Clinical Services at MSPCC. “Our staff receives training in evidence-based interventions, family engagement and classroom management to help teachers promote social-emotional development and school readiness.”
Before expelling Ethan, his day care center called MSPCC. A trained mental health consultant went to the classroom to work with his teacher on a plan to help Ethan manage his aggression. After meeting with Ethan’s mother, the consultant referred his family to MSPCC’s In-Home Therapy program to address the root of his behavior.
“Often when we see a child struggling in day care, we find out that he or she is facing difficulties at home. They may have a parent who is depressed or who needs extra help with parenting skills, they could be living in poverty or in a home with domestic violence,” said MSPCC Clinic Director Amanda Hemp, who oversees the Mental Health Consultation program.
In addition to addressing Ethan’s behavior, MSPCC trained all the day care center’s teachers on strategies for managing challenging student behavior in the future—like how to recognize the signs of trauma and methods to work with children based on their specific mental health needs.
Last year alone, MSPCC provided mental health consultation to more than 100 classrooms across Northeast Massachusetts.
As for Ethan? His In-Home Therapist discovered he had a history of trauma that was contributing to his aggressive behavior in day care.
“We’re working with Ethan’s family at home to provide the treatment and support he needs to heal. At school, his teacher now has strategies to address Ethan’s behavior in a way that will allow him to learn and grow socially and emotionally,” Hemp said. “Staying in his classroom made all the difference for Ethan—despite all he’s been through, he’s doing well in day care and catching up to his peers.”