Ethical Considerations in Early Childhood Mental Health Practice: Balancing Ethics and Relationships When Working With Young Children Involved in the Court System

Early Childhood Mental Health (ECMH) is a practice that requires specialized knowledge and clinical skills. Most evidence based modalities of therapy for ECMH require us to hold both the child and the parent or caregiver in mind to treat the mental health of the child in the context of the relationship. This requires looking at ethical guidelines through the lens of what is best for the child while keeping the caregiver or parent’s well-being in mind as well. Maltreated children who require interfacing with the child welfare or court system add even more complexity to ECMH practice. This session is an overview of some specialized ethical tenets for ECMH, as well as a deeper look at the ethics of working within a child welfare system. The session will include will also include an overview of the court processes in juvenile court, the considerations for treating and testifying on behalf of young children who have experienced trauma, and the perspectives and practices of attorneys who call therapists to testify. This session will include a lecture, discussion and case based scenarios to help the participant integrate the complex ethical challenges of working with young children.

Learning Objectives:

1. Obtain an overview of the Ethical Guidelines for Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health (Michigan Model).
2. Discuss the special ethical issues when working with infants and toddlers as a mental health therapist.
3. Discuss and describe ethical issues as they pertain to interfacing and testifying in court for infants and toddlers who are maltreated.
4. Review and define the court processes of a juvenile court case and the practices and perspectives of attorneys practicing in juvenile court


- Michigan Association for Infant Mental Health, I-ECMH Code of Ethics, 2019.
- National Child Traumatic Stress Network, Testifying in Court about Trauma: How to Prepare, (2013).
- Osofsky, J PhD, Cole-Mossman, J. LIMHP, and Cohen, C. Honorable, (February 2016) Testyifying in Court for Child Parent Psychotherapy, Quality Improvement Center for Research-Based Infant-Toddler Court Teams.