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A Unique Collaboration Between IU East and a Head Start Program

October 10, 2011

LIBERTY, Ind. - In just over a year, a unique partnership has been established, as a mental health professional from the Indiana University East campus spends one day a week at the Head Start Program in the town of Liberty in eastern Indiana. Head Start is a federally-funded school readiness program for kids in poverty.

Colleen Brandenburg, Head Start's early childhood education director, says the on-site social worker is helping them better understand behavior.

"Instead of just looking at it being disruptive or negative or a problem, they have really taught us how to go deeper to help the child express to us - you know - 'I'm feeling lonely, I'm feeling scared, I miss my mom.'"

I.U. East social worker Lisa Steiner says she has the opportunity to help a lot of people in her one day a week at Head Start.

"I can talk to parents about their child. I can talk to teachers about their classroom. I can talk to teachers about their home life. We can brainstorm together and come up with some kind of an environmental approach to fixing an issue in a classroom."

I.U. East director of social work Ed FitzGerald says there's not another collaboration like this that he knows of in Indiana.

"Most infant mental health consultants provide observations and/or training to the staff how to recognize challenges. And we're doing something very unique by providing the services on-site and the interventions on-site."

Colleen Brandenburg says being able to resolve issues in Head Start means better chances for success when the child moves on to kindergarten and grade school. The social worker also helps family members, teachers and administrators with work or home life issues and makes referrals to outside agencies when necessary.

Leigh DeNoon, Public News Service - IN