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An Informal History of Florida’s and FAIMH’s Competencies/Endorsement Journey

Anne E. Hogan, PhD, FAIMH Past President – July 2018

When we are mid-journey, sometimes to make sense of the current “location” it helps to review how we got here and where we are going next as we proceed. That can help us understand and explain the What, the How, the Who and the When Questions we have about the Competencies and Endorsement efforts. 

Where We Are In 2018-2019

The Background

The process that FAIMH is leading now actually had prior roots in two individual Florida counties. Although several years apart, through their Children’s Services Councils, Palm Beach County and later Hillsborough County, purchased a license to use the Competencies Guidelines® portion of the Michigan Association for Infant Mental Health’s (MI-AIMH) Competency Guidelines and Endorsement System®. As individual counties, they were not eligible to establish a “local’ endorsement system, nor would it have been feasible. However, groups in both counties have used their licenses to guide the systematic development and delivery of professional development efforts for their infant mental health systems, agencies, and providers.    

In the intervening years, the MI-AIMH, along growing numbers of other state IMH associations, organized into a formal group now called the Alliance for the Promotion of Infant Mental Health. Florida and FAIMH joined the group in 2017, as FAIMH became the renewing agent for the expiring license held by the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County. With important support from Florida DCF’s Project LAUNCH and MIECHV partners, FAIMH is now responsible for the adoption process and roll out of Florida Infant Mental Health-Endorsement® or FIMH-E®.    

As our Michigan and Alliance colleagues have made clear, the roll out process is NOT just a matter of adding a manual with a checklist or adding an extra couple of links on the website and flipping a switch! Their mentoring and guidance, which many of us in Florida saw first-hand at the October 2017 Endorsement Kickoff at USF-Saint Petersburg, will be needed for us to accomplish our 2018-2020 FAIMH goals for FIMH-E®.  

Key Process 1: A small group of eight Florida IMH leaders will go through the Michigan system to be Endorsed by MI-AIMH and they are our initial FAMIH Endorsement Team of Advisers, Portfolio Reviewers, and when appropriate, Exam Graders. This enables this first group (FAIMH’s Leadership Cohort) to experience the entire process with IMH Experts who have guided many others through the process and is the first step toward establishing the fidelity and integrity of the process. This process has begun and will be completed in 2018.

Key Process 2:  After the Leadership Cohort achieves their Michigan Endorsement in late 2018, they will then guide a larger second group through the entire process under FAIMH authority, with continuing consultation by the Michigan team for the Leadership Cohort. This second group will serve as the Advisers, Reviewers, and Exam Graders. Because our original Leadership Cohort was a small group, we are limited in how big this second group can be. A group of 30 professionals were identified and chosen to balance geography and other aspects of diversity relevant to our workforce. By having the Leadership Cohort endorsed through Michigan, they provide the process for the next group in 2019, and we are able to build the FAIMH capacity to offer consistent quality and standards for the advising, reviewing, and grading that all applicants receive. Additionally, to avoid bias in the process, no one person can do the advising and reviewing for any single applicant as there is always a second reviewer before the determination is made. This is very important but serves as another constraint on how quickly we will be able to process the full Endorsement® steps in our first few groups. 

Take-Away Message

As We Move Into 2019

Key Process 3: The first pilot site to begin the system expansion: FAIMH and Hillsborough County join for efforts in how the expanding implementation can work. 

Note: As the system starts to flow, the process is: An individual will go to the FAIMH website, join or renew as needed, open their on-line Portfolio account to begin building their Portfolio by submitting transcripts, letters of reference; and begin documenting the experiences and trainings that they have had to complete all the requirements. To assist with questions during the application/portfolio development process, an Adviser who has already been Endorsed and trained to serve as an Adviser will be assigned.

Depending on the applicant’s background and experience, Portfolio development make take weeks or months, which is why the Adviser role is so important. When the Portfolio is ready for evaluation, Primary and Secondary Reviewers are assigned. Once they each determine the Portfolio is complete and satisfies the criteria, the applicant is informed. Infant Family Associates and Infant Family Specialists complete their initial Endorsement requirements upon this determination. However, for Infant Mental Health Specialists and Infant Mental Health Mentors, they must then prepare for the multiple choice and essay exam that is required (typically scheduled about three months after Portfolio notification). 

FAIMH and the Leadership Cohort are working with Hillsborough County IMH colleagues to create informational and technical assistance products for professionals who want to go through the Endorsement process.  While it will be hard to speed up some elements of the process while we are building the Qualified Evaluation Teams (i.e., Advisers, Reviewers, Graders), we plan to develop aids that will help folks become highly knowledgeable, well-versed in the requirements for their desired Endorsement category, and organized in their record-keeping that will assist in later timely Portfolio development.   

What this means is that it is not just a matter of how many IMH folks are ready and eager to start the process (which we know in Florida is a LOT!). It also means we need to build the qualified infrastructure for the FAIMH Endorsement Team to handle the load. Initially, that load will have to be limited and then increase steadily with time, experience, and growth of the Advising and Evaluating Team Members.

The two toughest questions that we all wonder are:  When can I start? and Will this (fill in the blank for experience...)  count? cannot be answered with certainty yet.  We will learn much about the timing of the process, as well as the potential technical challenges, in 2018 and into early 2019 as we move our MI-AIMH and first FAIMH leadership groups through. They will be the experts who can help up us all with our specific questions.

While this may seem discouraging to some of you who were eager to start immediately, the good news is there is a lot you can learn and do to start preparing your future applications.  We will be working to develop those materials in Hillsborough and look forward to sharing them statewide as they have been piloted and determined useful.  

The Florida Association of Infant Mental Health is part of the Alliance for the Advancement of Infant Mental Health.

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