Infant Family Center

Multi-generational familyThrough the development of a strong community partnership led by USF St. Petersburg and Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, the Infant-Family Mental Health Center was created to provide the opportunity for every child to experience the early nurturing relationships that are the foundation for lifelong healthy development.

The Infant Family Center actively promotes interdisciplinary training, research, and practice related to the social and emotional development of all children during the first five years of life.  The Center is framed within a universal awareness of the importance of the early years and of supporting coparenting relationships between caregivers in the best interest of young children. Together, we:

  • provide quality services to children ages 0-5 years that support and strengthen families and improve child outcomes;
  • strengthen the emerging infant mental health workforce with training and workforce development efforts; and
  • effectively move the field of IMH forward with cutting edge research and policy advocacy.

Center Services

Center services to children 0-5 and their families include assessment, consultation and therapy including:

  • Child and Family Assessment
  • Evaluation of social-emotional development
  • Trauma screening and treatment
  • Coparenting/parenting consultation
  • Behavioral consultation
  • Child-Parent therapy and Family therapy
  • Parent Groups and More

Contact Information:

Infant-Family Mental Health Center
(727) 767-4603
e-mail: Jessica5@mail.usf.edu

For additional information or to schedule an appointment please call  (727) 767-4603 or contact Jessica Lassiter  at Jessica5@mail.usf.edu.

Why Infant-Family Mental Health?

Infant mental health is the healthy social and emotional development of a child from birth to 3 years and is the promotion of healthy social and emotional development, the prevention of mental health problems and the treatment of mental health problems of very young children in the context of their families.

Nurturing relationships and positive early life experiences set the path for optimal social-emotional development from infancy into adulthood. Supportive interactions with adults stimulate the brain to grow and develop crucial social and emotional skills necessary for healthy development.

Our Center will work with all of the important caregivers in the child’s life. In many families this will be the child’s mother and father but in other families this may be a grandma or other important family member.

We call these people coparents and all of our services are designed to help coparents work effectively together for the child.

Our Center is here to provide evidence-based supportive interventions to help families strengthen the foundation of healthy development for their child. Our experienced specialists will provide assessment and intervention to address emotional, social, relational and behavioral issues occurring within the family.

What We Do

Our team develops, evaluates, implements and disseminates effective relationship focused culturally informed interventions for young children and their families starting at birth and through age 5.

You will be guided by a highly trained group of multidisciplinary clinical staff including psychologists, clinical social workers, psychiatrists, and mental health counselors with expertise in infant-family mental health, early childhood development, attachment, coparenting and trauma. The team will work with you and your family to meet the social-emotional and behavioral needs of your young child.

The first years of life are critical to a child’s later development. The Infant-Family Mental Health Center at All Children’s Hospital provides national leadership in developing and delivering effective, family-centered interventions for children aged birth through five. Our services are designed to support families who are experiencing challenges with their baby or young child due to medical conditions, family stress, family conflict, or other adverse life circumstances. We also serve families who have experienced traumatic events such as violence in the home or community; death of a loved one; or life-threatening accidents, illnesses, or disasters.

Our team is dedicated to helping families with infants and young children to better address the challenges they face in order to support their child’s health and development. We develop and research effective treatment models, provide training across settings and disciplines, and offer direct service to children and their families.

If you have questions or want to schedule your first visit, please call the Infant-Family Mental Health Center at (727) 767-4602.

For Professionals

Infant-Family Mental Health Defined

More than a quarter century ago, Selma Fraiberg developed a new and creative method for strengthening the development and well-being of infants and young children within secure and stable family relationships. She called the practice Infant Mental Health. “Infant” referred to children under three years of age. “Mental” included social, emotional and cognitive areas. “Health” referred to the well-being of young children and families.

Today, infant mental health is understood to be the optimal growth and social-emotional, behavioral, and cognitive development of the infant — in the context of her relationships with the important caregiving adults and attachment figures in her family and in her life. Even very young babies can experience difficulties in social and emotional adjustment. Depression can be observed in the first 2-3 months of life, as can attachment disorders, problems with regulation of behavior and emotions, and other developmental difficulties. Infant Mental Health practitioners are experts in understanding both babies and their families. They make an effort to understand how the young child’s behaviors feel to the child from the inside, not just how they look from the outside. Work with families is designed to help parents and coparents better understand the child’s signals and needs, and to communicate, coordinate and collaborate more effectively together to help the child feel safe, secure and supported in the heart of their family.

Children who are experiencing problems with adjustment may:

  • Display very little emotion
  • Show no interest in sights
  • Reject or avoid being touched or being held or playing with others
  • Be unusually difficult to soothe or console
  • Be unable to comfort or calm themselves
  • Be extremely fearful or constantly on-guard
  • Not turn to familiar adults for comfort or help
  • Exhibit abrupt behavior changes

Treatment for these and other early emotional and behavioral challenges is most successful when it is designed to meet a child and family’s specific needs.

Some children experiencing the issues above may also have accompanying medical issues. When that is the case, they may need the care of specialists in immunology, gastroenterology, genetics, autism spectrum disorders, or feeding and sleep disorders. Pediatric experts in these and other areas are available here at All Children’s Hospital to help.

Our Approach to Helping Infants and Families

The Infant Family Mental Health Center offers support services and interventions for families with newborns, infants, toddlers, and preschool children age 5 and under. Our services are designed for families experiencing trauma, conflict, and other adverse life circumstances that are affecting the infant’s healthy growth and development.

The IFMHC is positioned as a central “hub” that also provides access to services throughout the hospital, the city of St. Petersburg, and Pinellas County in situations where our services are not able to serve the unique issues the family may be facing. For this reason, inquiries from families experiencing any form of distress or disturbance involving their infant or young child are welcomed. Our aim is to assure that families receive the best services that are right for them.

We believe that children make the greatest progress through direct care when their parents and other important adults in their lives are working collaboratively to help them through their challenges. For these reasons the IFMHC operates from a “family systems” model that involves all of the important adults responsible for the child’s care and upbringing. In some cases where there has been a significant trauma, we may also work intensively with one parent and the child, but our program works to insure that all involved coparents are part of the case conceptualization and treatment plan. Early intervention when infants or young children are experiencing emotional or behavioral challenges can make a dramatic difference in a child’s life and ability to function at home, in school and in social settings.

Our Infant Family Mental Health Center provides services to families in one centralized location to make it as convenient as possible for children to receive the services needed.

Training and Consultation

The IFMHC trains service providers locally, nationally, and abroad.

Training topics include:

  • The effects of trauma on child development
  • Integrating trauma principles into systems that serve families, such as primary care, childcare and schools, domestic violence shelters, family resource centers, child welfare, and the judicial system
  • Integrating a coparenting and family systems focus into assessment, treatment, and agency intervention

Training and consultation occur through:

  • Program consultation
  • Partnerships with community agencies
  • Workshops and presentations
  • The Infant-Family Mental Health certificate program, offered at USF St. Petersburg

Research

Our Center provides national leadership in researching the capacities of families to buffer their children from the effects of toxic stress and trauma through effective parenting and coparenting, and in researching the effectiveness of coparenting and relationship-based treatments. Our goal is to improve effectiveness of services and raise the standard of care for young children and families experiencing strain and stress during the early years of life.

Our goal is to advance knowledge about infant and early childhood mental health and the centrality of early relationships by offering educational opportunities in infant-family mental health throughout the community, state and country.

Our research informs innovative practices in infant-family mental health. We conduct clinical research to increase understanding of the development of young children, and the effectiveness of community and family intervention efforts on their behalf.