University Research Center Will House Georgia Association for Infant Mental Health

December 8, 2021

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The Mark Chaffin Center for Healthy Development, a Georgia State University research center housed in the School of Public Health, has been chosen as the future home for the Georgia Association for Infant Mental Health (GA-AIMH). The center will be the first umbrella organization to house GA-AIMH.

"I am delighted that the MCCHD has been selected as the umbrella organization to lead GA-AIMH forward as a vibrant and highly collaborative catalyst for advancing infant and early childhood mental health throughout the state of Georgia," said Kathleen Baggett, interim director of the MCCHD and an associate professor of health promotion and behavior in the School of Public Health.

The Mark Chaffin Center is focused on preventing and addressing child maltreatment, building social-emotional competencies and promoting meaningful inclusion and quality of life for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Center faculty and staff develop, study and bring to scale real-world implementation of evidence-based practices. Within the Mark Chaffin Center, GA-AIMH will support a range of early childhood professionals who address the social, emotional and developmental needs of young children and their families.

The mission of GA-AIMH is to promote family, infant and early childhood mental health as foundational to development. The group raises awareness of young children's social and emotional needs; builds culturally responsive preventive and therapeutic professional capacities; fosters interdisciplinary and cross-system collaboration by supporting professionals working with and on behalf of infants, young children, and their families; and advocates for and supports policies in the best interest of infants, young children, families and communities.

A key component of GA-AIMH will be the Endorsement for Culturally Sensitive, Relationship-Focused Practice Promoting Infant & Early Childhood Mental Health, which was originally created by the Alliance for the Advancement of Infant Mental Health. Endorsement provides recognition of specialized knowledge and expertise among professionals working with or on behalf of pregnant women, young children and their families. Endorsement is not a license but an overlay that complements one's professional license and/or other credentials. Thirty-two other states, including Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Florida, already offer the Endorsement.

Funding and support for GA-AIMH has been provided by the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning, the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta and the Center for Leadership in Disability at Georgia State, led by Emily Graybill, clinical associate professor in the School of Public Health. Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students has served as the host organization and fiscal agent for GA-AIMH. An exploratory board, formed in 2020 and chaired by Trasie Topple, director of the Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Services of Georgia, and Kathy Bragg, clinical director of CHRIS 180, will continue to serve as a community advisory board.

Image of a mother holding and kissing her smiling child.