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Getting Started: Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why did South Carolina decide to adopt the Endorsement® for Culturally Sensitive, Relationship-Focused Practice Promoting Infant Mental Health® (IMH Endorsement®)?

In adopting I-ECMH Competencies Guidelines® and Endorsement® that span all child and family-serving workforce sectors, our state joins a swiftly growing movement to prioritize the need for increased resources and attention on the social and emotional needs of infants and young children. South Carolina is the 29th state and joins two countries in licensing use of the Michigan Competency Guidelines® and Endorsement in Culturally Sensitive, Relationship-Focused Practice Promoting Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health®. With this, South Carolina also becomes part of the Alliance for the Advancement of Infant Mental Health®, formed with the goal of ensuring consistency in professional standards across state lines, promoting the relational health of infants, young children, and their families, supporting professionals who serve infants, young children, and families through workforce development and shared resources for infant and early childhood mental health associations.

2. Is South Carolina the only state that offers the IMH Endorsement®?

No. South Carolina is one of 30 state infant mental health associations and two international associations who have licensed the use of the Competency Guidelines® and/or the Endorsement for Culturally Sensitive, Relationship-Focused Practice Promoting Infant Mental Health®.

These state and international members make up the Alliance for the Advancement of Infant Mental Health® (The Alliance). The members of the Alliance honor reciprocity of the IMH Endorsement® across states, i.e., if a professional earns IMH Endorsement® as an IMH Specialist in Connecticut and then later moves to South Carolina, the IMH Endorsement® as an IMH Specialist will be honored by the professional’s new state.

3. What is the benefit for obtaining my IMH Endorsement®?

Obtaining your IMH Endorsement® from SCIMHA verifies that an applicant has attained a level of education as specified, participated in specialized in-service trainings, worked with guidance from mentors or supervisors, and acquired knowledge to promote the delivery of high quality, culturally sensitive, relationship-focused services to infants, toddlers, young children, parents, other caregivers and families.

Endorsed professionals are building the capacity of the infant and early childhood workforce by gaining shared competencies across disciplines. Achieving the IMH Endorsement® sends a message to centers/agencies, peers and colleagues, families, and the community at large that the professional encompasses the set of skills and knowledge necessary to implement best practices for supporting infants, toddlers, and their families.

In a survey of newly Endorsed professionals (across all categories), the following benefits were shared:

  • More knowledgeable about infant mental health
  • Strengthened confidence in providing services
  • Better equipped to identify the supports that a family might need
  • Developed an appreciation for reflective supervision
  • Helped remove judgment when providing services
  • Re-inspired the work
  • Increased credibility when collaborating with other agencies

Other benefits have begun to surface across Alliance members. For example, some agencies prefer hiring applicants who have or are working toward the IMH Endorsement®. Some states have implemented pay increases for Endorsed professionals, while others are advocating for Endorsed professionals to be able to bill Medicaid for their services. 

4. What if I work with children older than the age of 3?

Providing services to a larger age range of children is common in the early childhood field. The majority of IMH Endorsement® applicants work with children ages 0-5 or 0-8. For the purposes of the IMH Endorsement®, applicants will focus their descriptions of their education, work role, trainings, and reflective consultation (if required) on the services they provide to infants and toddlers (ages 0-3) only.

As of May 2020 SCIMHA also offers the Early Childhood Mental Health Endorsement®,  which supports professionals who primarily serve children ages 3-6 and their families and caregivers. 

5. What if I don’t have a mental health background?

That’s okay! The framework of the IMH Endorsement® is to support the infant and early childhood workforce, which is a multidisciplinary field. SCIMHA is supporting a variety of professionals through the IMH Endorsement® application process, including but not limited to home visitors, early care and education teachers/caregivers, early childhood mental health consultants, Early Intervention providers, psychologists, licensed social workers, research faculty, and policymakers/administrators. Even though all of these professionals were not necessarily trained in mental health, their role is critical to supporting the mental health of infants and toddlers.

Infant Mental Health is:

The developing capacity from birth to 3 to:

  • Experience, regulate, and express emotions
  • Form close relationships
  • Explore the environment and learn

…all in the context of family, community, and cultural expectations for young children.

(Zero to Three Infant Mental Health Task Force, 2011)

6. How long will it take me to complete the Endorsement® application?

Applying for the IMH Endorsement® is an individual professional and personal journey. On average, it takes an applicant 12-18 months from application registration to submission of their final application.

7. Do I need to have met all of the requirements for Endorsement® before I begin my application?

No! In fact, the IMH Endorsement® is designed to support the professional development of the infant and early childhood workforce. Moving through the application process supports an applicant in developing a professional development plan, and in turn the experiences an applicant gathers from their training, work role, and reflective consultation (if required) supports their application process.

8. Who do I contact if I need help during the application process?

Supporting applicants is the primary role of SCIMHA's Endorsement® Coordinator. Applicants can contact the Coordinator via email ( endorsement@scimha.org ) anytime throughout the application process.

9. Who reviews my Endorsement® application?

Each Endorsement® application receives two reviews from Endorsed professionals either from South Carolina or a member state from the Alliance. 

10. Who reviews my written Endorsement® exam?

Exams will be reviewed by Endorsed professionals who have been trained by The Alliance to review Endorsement® exams. The identity of exam reviewers and applicants is kept confidential from each other to avoid any conflicts of interest.



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