DIVERSITY-INFORMED TENETS FOR WORK WITH INFANTS, CHILDREN, AND FAMILIES

 

The Tenets are a product of the Irving Harris Foundation Professional Development Network.

Principios en español

  1. Self-Awareness Leads to Better Services for Families: Professionals in the field of infant mental health must reflect on their own culture, personal values, and beliefs, and on the impact racism, classism, sexism, able-ism, homophobia, xenophobia, and other systems of oppression have had on their lives in order to provide diversity-informed, culturally attuned services on behalf of infants, toddlers, and their families.

Stance Toward Infants and Families

  1. Champion Children’s Rights Globally: Infants are citizens of the world. It is the responsibility of the global community to support parents, families, and local communities in welcoming, protecting, and nurturing them.
  1. Work to Acknowledge Privilege and Combat Discrimination: Discriminatory policies and practices that harm adults harm the infants in their care. Privilege constitutes injustice. Diversity-informed infant mental health professionals work to acknowledge privilege and to combat racism, classism, sexism, able-ism, homophobia, xenophobia, and other systems of oppression within themselves, their practices, and their fields.
  1. Recognize and Respect Nondominant Bodies of Knowledge: Diversity-informed infant mental health practice recognizes nondominant ways of knowing, bodies of knowledge, sources of strength, and routes to healing within diverse families and communities.
  1. Honor Diverse Family Structures: Families define who they are comprised of and how they are structured; no particular family constellation or organization is inherently optimal compared to any other. Diversity-informed infant mental health practice recognizes and strives to counter the historical bias toward idealizing (and conversely blaming) biological mothers as primary caregivers while overlooking the critical child-rearing contributions of other parents and caregivers including fathers, second mothers, foster parents, kin and felt family, early care and educational providers, and others.

Practice/Research Field Principles

  1. Understand That Language Can Be Used to Hurt or Heal: Diversity-informed infant mental health practice recognizes the power of language to divide or connect, denigrate or celebrate, hurt or heal. Practitioners strive to use language (including “body language,” imagery, and other modes of nonverbal communication) in ways that most inclusively support infants and toddlers and their families, caregivers, and communities.
  1. Support Families in Their Preferred Language: Families are best supported in facilitating infants’ development and mental health when services are available in their native languages.
  1. Allocate Resources to Systems Change: Diversity and inclusion must be proactively considered in undertaking any piece of infant mental health work. Such consideration requires the allocation of resources such as time and money for this purpose and is best ensured when opportunities for reflection with colleagues and mentors as well as on-going training and consultation are embedded in agencies, institutions, and systems of care.
  1. Make Space and Open Pathways for Diverse Professionals: Infant mental health workforces will be most dynamic and effective when culturally diverse individuals have access to a wide range of roles, disciplines, and modes of practice and influence.

Broader Advocacy

  1. Advance Policy That Supports All Families: Diversity-informed infant mental health practitioners, regardless of professional affiliation, seek to understand the impact of social policies and programs on diverse infants and toddlers and to advance a just policy agenda for and with families.

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