Infant Mental Health Competencies Framework

(Pregnancy to 2 Years)


 Association for Infant Mental Health (AIMH (UK))

International Training School for Infancy and Early Years (ITSIEY)

On 12 June 2020, during Infant Mental Health Awareness Week, we launched the Infant Mental Health Recognition Register (IMHRR) website.  Establishing the IMHRR will enable all practitioners from across the multi-disciplinary field of infant mental health (IMH) to be recognised and valued for their specialist role working within perinatal and infant mental health



Infant mental health (IMH) refers to the developing capacity of the child from birth to form close relationships, manage and express emotions, and explore the environment and learn (Osofsky & Thomas, Zero to Three, 2012).

The capacity for self-regulation develops when parent/s/caregivers provide patterns of care that have been shown to be growth promoting, (e.g. sensitivity; attuned and contingent interaction; marked mirroring etc.).

Infant mental health problems occur within the context of a parent-infant/care-giver-infant.

About this Framework

Competencies are the skills, knowledge and behaviours that enable practitioners to deliver high-quality care and the continuous improvement of services. This competency framework has been developed for all staff working with infants and their parent/s/caregivers from pregnancy to the second year of life, to support parent/s/caregiver to promote healthy infant development. It is informed by research, theory and evidence-based practice, and designed to raise standards of care for families by supporting all staff to optimize their learning and skills.

It has been developed to standardise competencies for infant mental health practice. This will help to ensure the workforce is suitably skilled to identify need and deliver care to parent/s/caregiver who is pregnant or have a baby, and to both promote the mental health of the baby and provide access to appropriate evidence-based treatment where there are problems, as outlined in the Healthy Child Programme (DH, 2009; 2014).

The IMH Competency Framework (IMHCF) lists a number of competencies over three levels. The three levels distinguish between (1) general knowledge and skills, (2) advanced knowledge and skills, and (3) the knowledge and skills required to supervise and manage.

Thus, for example, if you are working as an early year’s practitioner you would be aiming to achieve the competencies at level 1; whereas nursery managers or those in supervisory roles would be expected to achieve a higher level of competency. If you are a medic, health visitor, midwife or social worker you would be expected to be achieving the competencies at level 2. Specialist practitioners such as parent-infant psychotherapists and specialist health visitors should be working at level 3.

Related Documents:

Infant Mental Health Competencies Framework


Infant Mental Health Competencies Framework Introduction

Infant Mental Health Competencies
Grid Level

Infant Mental Health Competencies
Grid Level


Infant Mental Health Competencies
Grid level


Andrea Leadsom MP hosts launch of the first Infant Mental Health Competencies Framework (IMHCF), 1st May 2019, House of Commons, Westminster

By developing the IMHCF The Association for Infant Mental Health (AIMH (UK)) in partnership with the International Training School for Infancy and Early Years (ITSIEY) will ensure that practitioners have the ability to support parent(s) or caregiver(s) to promote the socio-emotional development of infants. It represents one of the first attempts to standardise competencies for infant mental health practice

Andrea Leadsom joins some of the many delegates who attended the launch. Guests included representation from the following: Health Education England; Institute of Health Visiting; NHS England; Royal College of Psychiatrists; Imperial College London; National Childrens’ Bureau; NSPCC; Barnardo’s; General Medical Council; Nursing & Midwifery Council; Early Intervention Foundation; Kings College London; Anna Freud Centre for Children & Families and UK Parliament.

Along with the full IMHCF presention all delegates were informed of the importance of the competencies as a ‘mechanism’ to allow practitioners to self-assess their knowledge and skills to assure that they are equipped to address all issues relating to the parent-infant relationship across the perinatal period. The IMHCF is aimed at all practitioners in both the early years and health and social care sectors to work with babies and their families, and who want to demonstrate their competence in terms of promoting the parent-infant relationship.

The IMHCF covers the period from pregnancy to age 2 years, which is in line with the cross-government ambition for women and children focussing on the first 1001 critical days of a child’s life, and the NHS Long Term Plan (2019)

At the launch, from left to right. Dawn Cannon (AIMH (UK)) Director of Education and Training and Director of Warwick Infant and Family Unit, University of Warwick; Tessa Baradon, Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families and Jane Barlow, President AIMH (UK), Professor of Evidence Based Intervention and Policy Evaluation, Oxford University who states:

“The significance and importance of the Infant Mental Health Competencies Framework simply cannot be understated. The need for the highest, standardised level of infant mental health practitioner training is long over-due and I am proud that this has now become a reality”.

 The care and nurturing of mental health in infants and children creates the foundation for society. The Competencies Framework will ensure that healthcare practitioners have access to training and resources; the benefits of which will be far-reaching now and in the future.”

The IMHCF is supported by:

The Tavistock and Portman Trust NHS Trust
Institute of Health Visiting
Best Beginnings

29 November 2019 – The Launch of an Infant Mental Health Strategy for the Southern Area of Northern Ireland 2020-2025

Dawn Cannon, AIMH (UK)’s Director of Education & Training and key-note speaker, joined the new Working Group at the launch of the Southern area of Northern Ireland Infant Mental Health Strategy ‘Good Beginnings’. You can access all the information from this link ‘Good Beginnings’

Dawn’s visit to Ireland was co-ordinated by the National Children’s Bureau and was intended to inform thinking on the introduction of a competency framework for Northern Ireland Practitioners

With the introduction to the Infant Mental Health Competencies Framework (IMHCF) and Infant Mental Health Recognition Register (IMHRR), Dawn’s presentation emphasised the importance of national training and research in prioritising the importance of infant mental health.

Infant Mental Health is Everybody’s Business’, the new Southern Area’s IMH strategy represents a commitment by statutory, voluntary and community organisations to promote positive infant mental health from the ante-natal period through to children aged three.