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California Hopes to Fight Preschool Expulsions with Mental Health Services

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill into law on September 30, 2018, that provides a funding mechanism for mental health consultation services for child-care providers and preschools.

“This bill is really important because we know that teachers struggle with how to deal with challenging behaviors in their classroom,” said Scott Moore, the CEO of Kidango, a nonprofit that provides early learning and behavioral services to children in the Bay Area. “It’s one of the number one complaints that I’ll get when I visit our classrooms and talk with our teachers.”

Kidango helped to draft the legislation and supported its passage.

Through this new law, the state reimbursement rate per child for low-income children in child-care centers and preschools is increased by 5 percent for each child receiving subsidized tuition in a classroom that utilizes mental health consultation services. So if a classroom has 20 children and 10 of them are subsidized, the program would be reimbursed at a rate of 10.5 children.

“They’re actually creating a funding mechanism that financially incentivizes programs to want to have a consultant,” said Walter Gilliam, a child psychology and psychiatry professor at Yale University.

Gilliam and a team of researchers worked in Connecticut to conduct the first statewide randomized controlled trial on the impact of providing mental health consultation services to early-childhood education providers. He says in just three months challenging behaviors were significantly reduced.

Through this model, a mental health consultant who’s trained in early-childhood development and trauma observes classes and helps teachers come up with strategies to assist students engaging in inappropriate behavior.

This new law in the state follows a 2017 California law that made it much more difficult for state-subsidized preschools to expel children. That law called on preschools to exhaust several different means of supporting a child and his or her family before expulsion was allowed.

Preschool expulsion is not rare. Research by Gilliam found that preschoolers are expelled at triple the rate of students in K-12.

He says by passing this law California is taking a big step in helping children and their families.

Excerpted from “California Hopes to Fight Preschool Expulsions with Mental Health Services” in Education Week online. Read the full article.

Source: Education Week | California Hopes to Fight Preschool Expulsions with Mental Health Services, https://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/early_years/2018/10/new_california_law_encourages_programs_for_early_learners_to_invest_in_mental_health.html | © 2018 Editorial Projects in Education

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