Infant Mental Health Endorsement



What is Endorsement?

Please find everything you need to know about First3Years Endorsement:

We encourage you to contact us with questions at: Endorsement@first3yearstx.org

First3Years Endorsement Overview

Endorsement is an internationally recognized credential that supports and recognizes the development and proficiency of professionals who work with or on behalf of infants, toddlers, and their families. This process is based upon a comprehensive set of competencies that help define best practice and guides an organized system of culturally sensitive, relationship-based professional growth. Endorsement applicants must meet the requirements matching one of five categories, the closest fit to their line of work, and will finish the process with the Infant Mental Health Endorsed mark (IMH-E®).

As of January 2019, the Endorsement system is used by 30 US states and two countries.  The system is acknowledged by Zero to Three and the World Association for Infant Mental Health, and is coordinated by the Alliance for the Advancement of Infant Mental Health


Frequently Asked Questions:

Who Can Apply?

All professionals who have experience working with or on behalf of infants, toddlers, parents, and/or other caregivers, and meet the educational, work, training, and reflective supervision requirements at each category.

Why Apply?

  • To enhance your professional profile in the infant and family field.
  • To distinguish yourself among your colleagues by meeting competency standards that reflect best practice and by earning the IMH-E® mark.
  • To affirm the specialized knowledge and skills you have acquired through formal education and work experiences and in-service trainings, under the guidance and supervision of experienced mentors in the infant-family field.
  • To better support the infants, toddlers, families, students, agencies, and institutions that are served by the promotion of infant mental health.
  • Endorsement is Good for Babies 

“I am of a generation of early childhood professionals who were often referred to as ‘babysitters’ or ‘oh, anyone can take care of babies’, or even worse was, ‘is that a real profession?’. This Endorsement has been affirming of the science and theory that we know, plus the value of those early years and their impact on learning.” – La Nelle Ethridge, IMH-E® (Infant Mental Health Mentor)

“The Endorsement process is allowing expert social workers and early childcare professionals to label what they already do as imperative work. This assists with professionalizing the field and helping amazing caregivers feel valued and respected for their incredible role in a child’s life.”  – Natalie Ridley, IMH-E® (Infant Mental Health Mentor)

Endorsement Process

Steps to First3Years Endorsement:

  1. Inquire by contacting us at Endorsement@first3yearstx.org or by completing a preliminary application on EASy, the Endorsement Application System. This application includes a selection of an Endorsement category and some basic work and education information.
  2. While completing a preliminary application, pay the application fee and enroll in First3Years membership (if not a current member).
  3. Prepare and submit the completed main application along with the Endorsement processing fee.
  4. Competency review, including a review of the professional application by an Endorsed individual and, for Infant Mental Health Specialists & Infant Mental Health Mentors only, successful completion of multiple choice and written exam.
  5. Official Endorsement letter and certificate upon approval.

Continuing Endorsement Requirements:

Click HERE to view Endorsement requirements.

The EASy (Endorsement Application System) Application includes:

  1. List of specialized education, work, in-service training and reflective supervision experiences (if required)
  2. Transcripts from every college/university attended or copy of CDA certificate
  3. 3 reference rating forms
  4. Signed Code of Ethics
  5. Signed Endorsement Agreement
  6. Endorsement registration and processing fees

See more on Endorsement Requirements HERE.                  Click HERE to Apply Now!

More on Endorsement:

The purpose of First3Years Endorsement is to recognize and document the development of infant and family professionals by examining their infant mental health learning and work experiences, creating an organized system of culturally sensitive, relationship-based professionals. Endorsement verifies an applicant has attained a specified level of education, participated in specialized in-service trainings, worked with guidance from mentors or supervisors, and acquired knowledge to promote the delivery of high quality, culturally sensitive, relationship-focused services to infants, toddlers, parents, other caregivers, and families. Ultimately, First3Years would like to see everyone working with infants and toddlers acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to earn their Endorsement. Since 80-90% of the human brain’s capacity is developed in the first three years of life, the potential these workers have to influence and shape this population is astonishing and requires them to have the competency necessary to effectively help these young children thrive. Because infant and family professionals influence every aspect of children’s development, their work profoundly affects every sector of society, from the economy to the success of the US education system. First3Years is working hard to ensure these professionals receive the training and support they need.

The Endorsement System is meant to honor and recognize people working in a variety of settings for the work they do and the competence they have achieved in their professional roles. This includes all infant and family professionals, from the childcare providers who spend significant amounts of time raising Texas babies, to those who provide infant-parent psychotherapy to the most at-risk families in our communities. Each Endorsement designation (level) has a different set of competencies associated with it, just as each profession has different responsibilities and plays different roles in the lives of babies. As of January 2019, the Endorsement system is used by 30 US states and two countries.  The system is acknowledged by Zero to Three and the World Association for Infant Mental Health and is coordinated by the Alliance for the Advancement of Infant Mental Health. Endorsement by First3Years verifies that an applicant has attained a specified level of functional understanding based on a set of competencies that have been identified and agreed upon by hundreds of professionals, service providers, faculty members, and policymakers in the infant, young child, and family field.

If you’re interested in learning more about the history of Endorsement® and First3Years’ membership with The Alliance for the Advancement of Infant Mental Health, please follow this link to a 36-minute webinar developed by The Alliance: https://vimeo.com/392301038/f85923ebb8. The webinar reviews the following: What are the Competency Guidelines®, What is Endorsement®, What is the Alliance, What are the Benefits of being part of the Alliance, etc.

The materials supporting the First3Years Competency Guidelines are copyrighted by the Michigan Association for Infant Mental Health (MI-AIMH). First3Years is able to make these materials available to our membership and collaborators through a licensing agreement with the MI-AIMH.

Copyright law does allow individuals to print out or make ONE copy of copyrighted material for personal, non-commercial purposes only. None of the copyrighted Endorsement documents included here may be reproduced, displayed, distributed, or otherwise used in any format, including electronically, without the express written consent of MI-AIMH. Legal action will be taken against those who violate the copyright.