Infant Family Specialist Competency Guidelines

Area of Expertise: Theoretical Foundations

  1. Pregnancy & early parenthood

  2. Infant/very young child development & behavior

  3. Infant/very young child & family-centered practice

  4. Relationship-focused, therapeutic practice

  5. Family relationships & dynamics

  6. Attachment, separation, trauma, grief, & loss

  7. Disorders of infancy/early childhood

  8. Cultural competence

Knowledge Areas

As Demonstrated By

  • During observations and assessments, identifies emerging competencies of the infant and very young child within a relationship context

  • Supports and reinforces parent’s capacity to seek appropriate care during pregnancy

  • Supports and reinforces each parent’s strengths, emerging parenting competencies, and positive parent-infant/very young child interactions and relationships

  • Helps parents to: 

    • "See" the infant/very young child as a person, as well as all the factors (playing, holding, teaching, etc) that constitute effective parenting of that child

    • Derive pleasure from daily activities with their children

  • Shares with families realistic expectations for the development of their infants/very young children and strategies that support those expectations

  • Demonstrates familiarity with conditions that optimize early infant brain development

  • Recognizes risks and disorders of infancy/early childhood conditions that require the assistance of other professionals from health, mental health, education, and child welfare systems

  • Shares with families an understanding and appreciation of family relationship development

  • Applies understanding of cultural competence to communicate effectively, establish positive relationships with families, and demonstrate respect for the uniqueness of each client family’s culture

Area Of Expertise: Law, Regulation, & Agency Policy

  1. Ethical practice

  2. Government, law, & regulation

  3. Agency policy

Knowledge Areas

As Demonstrated By

  • Exchanges complete and unbiased information in a supportive manner with families and other team members

  • Practices confidentiality of each family’s information in all contexts with exception only when making necessary reports to protect the safety of a family member (eg, Children’s Protective Services, Duty to Warn)

  • Maintains appropriate personal boundaries with infants/very young children and families served, as established by the employing agency

  • Promptly and appropriately reports harm or threatened harm to a child's health or welfare to Children’s Protective Services

  • Accurately and clearly explains the provisions and requirements of federal, state, and local laws affecting infants/very young children and families (eg, Part C of IDEA, child protection, child care licensing rules and regulations) to families and other service providers working with the family

  • Shares information with non-citizen families and service agencies about the rights of citizen children of non-citizen parents

  • Personally works within the requirements of:

    • Federal and state law

    • Agency policies and practices

    • Professional code of conduct

Area of Expertise: Systems Expertise

  1. Service delivery systems

  2. Community resources

Knowledge Areas

As Demonstrated By

  • Assists families to anticipate, obtain, and advocate for concrete needs and other services from public agencies and community resources

  • Actively seeks resources to address infant/very young child and family needs 

  • Works collaboratively with and makes referrals to other service agencies to ensure that the child(ren) and family receive services for which they are eligible and that the services are coordinated

  • Helps parents build the skills they need to access social support from extended family, neighbors, and friends needed and as available in the community

  • Makes families and service providers/agencies aware of community resources available to families

Area Of Expertise: Direct Service Skills

  1. Observation & listening

  2. Screening & assessment

  3. Responding with empathy

  4. Advocacy

  5. Life skills

  6. Safety

Knowledge Areas

As Demonstrated By

  • Establishes trusting relationship that supports the parent(s) and infant/very young child in their relationship with each other, and that facilitates needed change

  • Provides services to children and families with multiple, complex risk factors

  • Formally and informally observes the parent(s) or caregiver(s) and infant/very young child to understand the nature of their relationship, developmental strengths, and capacities for change

  • Conducts formal and informal assessments of infant/very young child development, in accordance with established practice

  • Effectively implements relationship-focused, therapeutic parent-infant/very young child interventions that enhance the capacities of parents and infants/very young children 

  • Provides information and assistance to parents/or caregivers to help them:

    • Understand their role in the social and emotional development of infants/very young children

    • Understand what they can do to promote health, language, and cognitive development in infancy and early childhood

    • Find pleasure in caring for their infants/very young children

  • Nurtures the parents' relationship with each other, if one exists; alternatively, helps the custodial parent manage appropriate contact with the non-custodial parent

  • Promotes parental competence in:

    • Facing challenges

    • Advocating on behalf of themselves and their children

    • Resolving crises and reducing the likelihood of future crises

    • Solving problems of basic needs and familial conflict

  • Advocates for services needed by children and families with the supervisor, agencies, and programs 

  • Recognizes environmental and caregiving risks to the health and safety of the infant/very young child and parents, and takes appropriate action

Area of Expertise: Working With Others

  1. Building & maintaining relationships

  2. Supporting others/mentoring

  3. Collaborating

  4. Resolving conflict

  5. Empathy & compassion

Knowledge Areas

As Demonstrated By

  • Builds and maintains effective interpersonal relationships with families and professional colleagues by:

    • Respecting and promoting the decision-making authority of families

    • Understanding and respecting the beliefs and practices of the family's culture

    • Following the parents’ lead

    • Following through consistently on commitments and promises

    • Providing regular communications and updates

  • Works with and responds to families and colleagues in a tactful and understanding manner

  • Provides positive, specific feedback to encourage and reinforce desired behaviors and interactions in families

  • Assists families to develop the skills they need to become their own advocates
    Models appropriate behavior and interventions for new staff as they observe home visits

  • Encourages parents to share with other parents (eg, through nurturing programs, parent-child interaction groups)

  • Collaborates and shares information with staff of child care, foster care, community-based programs, and other service agencies to ensure effective, coordinated services 

  • Works constructively to find “win-win” solutions to conflicts with colleagues (eg, interagency, peer-peer, and/or supervisor-supervisee conflicts)

  • Provides emotional support to parents/caregivers and children when sad, distressed, etc

Area of Expertise: Communicating

  1. Listening

  2. Speaking

  3. Writing

Knowledge Areas

As Demonstrated By

  • Actively listens to others; asks questions for clarification

  • Uses appropriate non-verbal behavior and correctly interprets others’ non-verbal behavior

  • Communicates honestly, sensitively, and empathetically with families, using non-technical language

  • Obtains translation services as necessary to ensure effective communication with families who may experience a communication barrier

  • Writes clearly, concisely, and with the appropriate style (business, conversational, etc) in creating notes, reports, and correspondence

Area of Expertise: Thinking

  1. Analyzing information

  2. Solving problems

  3. Exercising sound judgment

  4. Maintaining perspective

  5. Planning & organizing

Knowledge Areas

As Demonstrated By

  • Sees and can explain the “big picture” when analyzing situations 

  • Sees and can explain the interactions of multiple factors & perspectives

  • Assigns priorities to needs, goals, and actions 

  • Considers difficult situations carefully

  • Evaluates alternatives prior to making decisions

  • Integrates all available information and consults with others when making important decisions

  • Generates new insights and workable solutions to issues related to effective relationship-focused, family-centered care

  • Defines, creates a sequence for, and prioritizes tasks necessary to perform role and meet the needs of families

  • Employs effective systems for tracking individual progress, ensuring follow up, and monitoring the effectiveness of service delivery as a whole

Area of Expertise: Reflection

  1. Contemplation

  2. Self-awareness

  3. Curiosity

  4. Professional/personal development

  5. Emotional response

Knowledge Areas

As Demonstrated By

  • Regularly examines own thoughts, feelings, strengths, and growth areas; discusses issues, concerns, actions to take with supervisor, consultants, or peers

  • Consults regularly with supervisor, consultants, peers to understand own capacities and needs, as well as the capacities and needs of families

  • Seeks a high degree of agreement between self-perceptions and the way others perceive him/her

  • Remains open and curious

  • Identifies and participates in learning activities related to the promotion of infant mental health

  • Keeps up-to-date on current and future trends in child development and relationship-focused practice

  • Uses reflective practice throughout work with infants/very young children and families to understand own emotional response to infant/family work and recognize areas for professional and/or personal development