Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute researchers honored by Michigan Association for Infant Mental Health

Drs. Ann Stacks (L) and Carla Barron (R) were honored by the Michigan Association for Infant Mental Health for their important work that contributes to the lives of infants, young children and their families.
Drs. Ann Stacks (L) and Carla Barron (R) were honored by the Michigan Association for Infant Mental Health for their important work that contributes to the lives of infants, young children and their families.

DETROIT — Wayne State University is pleased to announce that Ann Stacks, Ph.D., director of Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute’s (MPSI) Infant Mental Health Program, and Carla C. Barron, Ph.D., assistant professor of research and clinical coordinator of MPSI’s Infant Mental Health Program, were recently honored by the Michigan Association for Infant Mental Health (MI-AIMH). MI-AIMH supports nurturing relationships for all infants, toddlers and their families through training, social policy and research focused on infant mental health.

Stacks received MI-AIMH’s 2024 Betty Tableman Award, which recognizes exemplary service in development or sustenance of systems of care for infants, young children and their families.

Barron was awarded MI-AIMH’s 2024 Selma Fraiberg Award, which recognizes significant contributions in support of services for infants, young children and their families.

Stacks was recognized for helping promote the sustainability and expansion of Michigan’s Early Childhood Courts, a specialized treatment court that integrates an evidence-based intervention approach to infant mental health matters and focuses on transforming the court into a more collaborative and non-adversarial setting. Stacks said both local and national evaluations demonstrate the model’s efficacy to address children’s needs and improve child welfare outcomes. She hopes that the collaborative work will help contribute to the evidence base for Infant Mental Health Home Visiting and Early Childhood Courts.

“It is an honor to receive the Betty Tableman Award. In her long life, Betty was integral in establishing infant mental health into the public mental health system and helped establish the Early Childhood Court in Genesee County. I think she would be thrilled to see the progress we have made,” said Stacks. “Ideally, families can get services before they become involved in the court system so that we can reduce the number of children in foster care.”

Barron was recognized for her work, which focuses on reflective supervision and consultation. She engages in critical self-examination in the field as it relates to culture, race and diversity. She strives to invite multiple perspectives and embrace differences as opportunities for growth and connection and to better understand how professionals are attracted to the field of infant mental health and how to retain them.

“I hope to see some stabilization in our field,” said Barron. “Since the pandemic, the behavioral health and early childhood education fields have had a lot of turnover and people leaving the field. I hope to offer better support, training, and education for infant and early childhood students and professionals, so people not only want to go into this field but also stay here. I think there are a lot of things they need that they aren’t getting now. This is challenging work, and these professionals bring their hearts and all of themselves to their work. There’s a lot of pressure on professionals working in mental health and early childhood education, there’s been a lack of funding, there’s a lot of oversight and paperwork they have to do, and there can be low pay and a lack of benefits. They deserve so much more.”

Both expressed their hope that this will help support MPSI and its mission.

“MPSI is unique, and we are doing things no one else is doing,” said Barron. “It was very much an honor to be awarded this while working at Wayne State University. Selma Fraiberg, whom the award is named after, received her bachelor’s and master’s here, so that makes this particularly meaningful.”

“I agree, and feel fortunate to work at an institute that values community-engaged research partnerships,” added Stacks.

“Both Dr. Barron and Dr. Stacks are very committed to work that examines how we are caring for the most vulnerable members of our society – children – particularly in urban-serving communities,” said Ezemenari Obasi, Ph.D., vice president for research at Wayne State University. “They are most deserving of these prestigious recognitions for their work and dedication.”

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