Erica E. Coates, Ph.D.

Erica E. Coates, Ph.D. Transformation of Mental Health Care Recipient

Disruptive behavior disorders are among the most common mental health diagnoses during early childhood and are disproportionately diagnosed in Black children. Despite the potential for early childhood mental health services to benefit children at-risk of developing behavioral disorders, most families with young children do not access needed services. Black families have even higher rates of unmet need due to material barriers, disparities in quality of care, and mistrust of the medical system. Untreated disruptive behavior disorders, particularly in Black children, have the potential to lead to exclusionary punishment as early as elementary school, further increasing risk for continued behavioral health concerns and poor academic and social-emotional outcomes. Given these potential outcomes, it is important to intervene early.

This project will use empirically supported strategies that increase access to, and acceptability of, preventive mental health services, including integrating services within early childhood education centers, utilizing peer support personnel for engagement and facilitation of services, and offering a culturally relevant intervention. Strengthening Family Coping Resources Peer to Peer is a preventive, peer-led mental health intervention that assists families in developing healthy parenting practices and reducing parenting stress that was developed in partnership with Black families in the local area. By implementing the intervention in early childhood education centers, we expect Black families will have greater access to a preventive intervention shown effective in improving developmental, relational, and mental health outcomes for Black parents and children.

Dr. Coates is the Director of the Black Early Stages of Social & Emotional Development (BLESSED) Research Group at Georgetown University Medical Center. The research group collaborates with Black families with young children living in socioeconomically disadvantaged environments in DC to gain an understanding of the culturally specific protective factors that families use to support their children, with the goal of developing culturally sensitive mental health care for Black families.