Jump Start Evolves in Response to COVID-19

February 24, 2021

In early 2020, the world changed immeasurably. Among myriad ways in which we all had to change with it, one of those was adapting our programs to serve the highest need communities in a meaningful way through a global pandemic. The Jump Start program sprung to action in March 2020 to overhaul our services and meet the greatest community needs. Typically, and at its core, Jump Start is an infant and early childhood mental health consultation (IECMHC) program that provides services at the program-level (i.e., by working with directors), classroom-level (i.e., by working with teachers), and child-level (i.e., by working with parents or other primary caregivers) in childcare centers and family childcare homes.

The Jump Start initiative focuses on strengthening capacity in adults to promote young children's social- emotional development, enhance whole classroom functioning while managing behavioral challenges, and reduce rates of suspension, expulsion, and other exclusionary discipline measures. Simultaneously, Jump Start strives to address mental wellness and reduce stress in the program's adult participants. Last Spring was the start of an extraordinary challenge and Jump Start's population was no exception. Our communities faced unparalleled levels of uncertainty and stress. We worked fervently and swiftly to adapt the program and meet the unique needs of childcare providers throughout Miami-Dade County. With permission from our funders, The Children's Trust, enrollment was opened, and all providers were welcomed to participate. We redesigned Jump Start's traditional IECMHC model and evolved into a multi-phased, multi-tiered system with the main goal of promoting resilience. Of course, our work would be impossible without our highly skilled Mental Health Consultants with whom we are fortunate to work, not only from our own university but from our three community partners: Community Health of South Florida, Family Central, and Jewish Community Services. Their positivity and unwavering determination to provide quality services continues to ensure Jump Start's success. Our new model consisted of three phases.

In Phase 1, Workforce Development, our existing Mental Health Consultants received advanced training in trauma-informed care. In Phase 2, Needs Assessment, Jump Start participants completed a survey to gauge their risk for psychosocial difficulties and their protective factors. Phase 3, Resource Provision, established a 6-tiered model of care. Based on reported needs and interest in activities, participants could receive any or all of the following: (1) COVID-19 online toolkit and resource hub; (2) referrals for supportive services in the community; (3) stress management phone call from a Mental Health Consultant; (4) virtual workshops/webinars related to parenting skills, child development, and COVID-19; (5) virtual peer support groups for directors and teachers; and (6) virtual individual consultations with a Mental Health Consultant. In addition, the Jump Start team created short, animated, child-friendly videos for the public on topics related to COVID-19 such as social distancing and wearing masks.

Head over to our website (www.jumpstartecc.com/covid-19/videos) to check out the videos and the rest of our resources in English, Spanish, and Creole! As always, and especially since the start of the pandemic, Jump Start has kept Mailman Center's mission statement at the forefront. We addressed the diverse needs of childcare providers in Miami-Dade, developed a brand-new system of care, identified risks and resiliency factors for our participants, integrated technology as our primary method of service provision, and educated the community on promoting physical and mental health. For nearly a year, Jump Start worked hard to maintain a focus on perseverance through these difficult times and we will continue doing so for as long as necessary. Written by Ellen Kolomeyer Long-term LEND Trainee.