Abstract: Addressing Mental Health Among Young Children through Early Intervention: Learnings from Project Launch (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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660P Addressing Mental Health Among Young Children through Early Intervention: Learnings from Project Launch

Sunday, January 15, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Alegnta Felleke, PhD, Assistant Professor, Our Lady of the Lake University, San Antonio, TX
Fred Cardenas, MSW, Manager- Early Childhood Wellbeing, Family Service, San Antonio, TX
April Viverette, MSW, PhD student, Our Lady of the Lake University, San Antonio, TX
Paul Alvarado, MSW, Doctoral Student, Our Lady of the Lake University, San Antonio, TX
Background/Purpose: There is growing concern in the United States about the increasing numbers of children and adolescents that are experiencing early behavioral health or mental health challenges. Approximately one in five children and adolescents in the U.S. need mental health services, but unfortunately only 20 percent receive care from a specialized mental health care provider (CDC, 2020). Community programs, such as Project LAUNCH (Linking Actions for Unmet Needs in Children’s Health), may improve access to specialized mental health care and reduce the number of children that require tertiary level intervention. Project LAUNCH is a national initiative to promote the wellness of young children from birth to 8 years of age through holistic intervention including, early childhood mental health consultation, classroom interventions, home-based services, parenting, developmental screening, and working with teachers and other providers (SAMHSA, 2020). The purpose of this study is to examine the difference in protective factors and behavioral concerns observed before and after the interventions of Project LAUNCH.

Methods: The study used longitudinal data from parents of low income-children and preschool teachers (n=55) participated in project LAUNCH San Antonio, Texas. The study used Devereux Early Childhood Assessment (DECA) which contains 27 positive behaviors (5-point Likert scale) that are organized into three sub-scales: initiative, self-regulation, and attachment, and 10 problem behaviors organized in a behavioral concerns sub-scale. Five paired-sample t-test models were used to analyze the data.

Results: In the first set of analysis, paired-sample t-test was conducted to test difference in the combined protective factors (initiative, self-regulation, and attachment) before and after interventions. Paired-sample t-test results indicate there was significant improvement in protective factors (Pre = 14.91, Post x̄ =23.00, difference = 8.091, SD = 20.693, t = -2.90, p < .05) following the interventions. Next, paired sample t-test was conducted to test differences in the three sub-scales of protective factor separately before and after the interventions. The findings indicate that there was statistically significance difference in initiative (Pre = 21.21, Post x̄ =29.62, difference = 8.382, SD = 23.575, t = -2.637, p < .05) and self-regulation (Pre = 9.41, Post x̄ =21.46, difference = 12.056, SD = 22.089, t = -4.011, p < .001) before and after the intervention, but not in attachment. In the third analysis, paired sample test was conducted to test differences in behavioral concerns before and after the intervention. The finding indicates that there was statistically significant difference in behavioral concerns (Pre = 89.38, Post x̄ =80.52, difference = -8.857, SD = 15.147, t = 3.789, p < .001) before and after the intervention.

Conclusion/Implication: Children in low-income families may benefit from policy efforts and holistic interventions that are designed to promote the wellness of young children by addressing the physical, social, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral aspects of their development. The associations between the interventions and protective factors and problem behaviors require more study in the future to explore causal links. Future work might involve quasi-experimental designs and causal molding using including alternative scales