The Journey to Infant and Early Mental Health & Wellness

Many people play a role in supporting Indigenous infants, children and families in their life journeys. This resource is intended help nurturing guides to use Indigenous ways of knowing and doing to respectfully engage with and support Indigenous families by creating respectful and effective Developmental Support Plans. Nurturing the Seed is a resource that can help practitioners to recognize and honor differing worldviews and create a platform to share valuable knowledge specifically relating to promoting infant mental health.

The Hand in Hand Developmental Support Planning Model (DSP) provides individualized plans which are developed by helping professionals for families to monitor and support the growth of a child in key areas of child development, namely: communication, problem-solving, personal-social, gross motor and fine motor, based on western theories of child development.

As the Hand in Hand model began to be used in communities, Infant and Early Mental Health Promotion (IEMHP) became more actively engaged with Indigenous stakeholders and families. We learned that while the purpose and intent of Hand in Hand align with the beliefs and needs of Indigenous stakeholders and families, if we really wanted to in order to respectfully engage them and support their children in culturally safe ways, we needed more culturally relevant information and tools.

During many discussions with Indigenous advisors and community members, we began to explore, redefine and then create a bridge between Indigenous practices and Western practices within this resource. While no “manual” could fully capture the spirit and traditions of all indigenous peoples, we hope to offer some insight and honour some common traditional practice.

Two integral guiding principles to support the overall process of creating Developmental Support Plans with Indigenous families are:

  • to build strong and respectful relationships; and
  • to support development using an Indigenous lens (see pg. 28).

Our hope is that the knowledge, guidance and strategies offered in this manual will help to ensure the process of working with Indigenous infants, children and families is carried out in ways that respect the realities, teachings and rights of Indigenous people.