Program Spotlight

Infant Mental Health Services

Joe and Jennifer Godard of Saginaw noticed their year-and-a-half old daughter, Heavanna Lynn, wasn’t acting like other children her age. She didn’t speak any words. She couldn’t use eating utensils. She was very introverted and there were additional behavioral problems. The parents of four other children, the Godards thought she might be autistic.

With some hesitation, they reached out to Saginaw County Community Mental Health Authority (SCCMHA) for help. After more than two years, Heavanna and the Godards have received the assistance they needed, and the now four-year-old has changed “like night and day,” according to Jennifer.

Infant Mental Health Services, part of SCCMHA’s Family Services Unit, provided that help. The program is designed to offer intensive outreach services to parents who are identified as having potential problems with sustaining a healthy, nurturing relationship with their infants and toddlers. Research shows that this relationship is central to the development of young children, and these types of services are now offered by mental health professionals across the nation, but they received their start in Michigan in 1977.

Jennifer Stanuszek has supervised Infant Mental Health Services at SCCMHA for five years and been employed by the organization for 17 years. She said more than 50 consumers are currently being served by a team of four people. The program includes in-home and office visits, and services cover everything from concrete (and immediate) needs to problem-solving skills, infant/toddler development, and strengthening the relationship between parents and child.

“We help families enjoy each other more,” Stanuszek explained. “The parent/child relationship is most critical. If we can improve skills needed for parents and children to have a healthy relationship, then we’ve done our job.”

The Godards are very enthusiastic about the program and have recommended it to others. “They’ve given us everything we need to be successful,” Joe said. “They’ve gone above and beyond what we expected, and we are very glad we reached out for help.”

For more information on Infant Mental Health Services, contact SCCMHA at 800-258-8678.