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Early Intervention and School-Based Program

The Early Intervention Program provides mental health consultation services to care providers of children 0-14.

Focused on promotion, early intervention and building community resiliency, the Early Intervention team offers services that address the unique developmental, behavioral, and cultural needs of children and their families. The program ensures the well-being of children, families, and teachers by enhancing supportive relationships and fostering positive learning environments.

Early Intervention currently provides mental health consultation preschool services to all ten of the Mission Neighborhood Center Head Start Programs, Theresa Mahler Child Development Center (EEC), Bryant EEC, Zaida Rodriguez Center (EEC), Cesar Chavez PreK, Sanchez EEC, Paul Revere PreK, Mission YMCA, and Holy Family Day Home. Services are also provided to several Latino family child care providers. For information regarding these services, please ask your provider if they partner with IFR.

Early Intervention also provides school-based mental health consultation services at elementary and middle schools in the Mission and Outer Mission Districts.  Services focus on reducing barriers to learning by enhancing the capacity of teachers, administrators, and parents to respond to the social-emotional and behavioral needs of the child and his/her family. We currently provide services at the following SFUSD schools: Cesar Chavez Elementary, Bryant Elementary, Hillcrest Elementary, Buena Vista Horace Man K-8 School, Everett Middle School, and James Lick Middle School.

For more information regarding these services, please contact Early Intervention Program Manager, Cassandra Coe, LCSW at (415) 229-0500 ext. 207.

As part of San Francisco’s Early Childhood Mental Health Initiative (ECMHI), the Early Intervention Program partners with early childhood programs, family resource centers, and family childcare providers to deliver the following services:

  • Mental Health Consultations: Consultations are provided for teachers and care providers. Mental health clinicians support staff to reflect on the needs of children and families, developing interventions and strategies to respond to these needs and enhance resiliency.
  • Program Consultations: Consultation to administrators and teachers regarding program needs.
  • Child Observation: Observations of children who have been identified as having social-emotional and/or behavioral difficulties.
  • Parent Consultations: Consultation to parents who have concerns regarding their child.
  • Case Management: Case management services to families identified as having need.
  • Therapeutic Services: Direct Services which include individual, family and group therapy.


School-Based Services are provided which utilize the relationship-based, capacity building framework of the ECMHI. In addition to the services mentioned above, school-based consultation services include the following:

  • Parent Support Group and Trainings offered on specific topics requested by sites.
  • Teacher Trainings on mental health topics requested by sites.
  • Participation in SAP/CARE and IEP meetings.
  • Mental Health Collaborative Meetings: bimonthly convening of leadership and support staff supporting alignment of mental health vision and services at school sites.

Early Intervention Program mental health consultations, trainings, and other activities are coordinated through the schools and community organizations with which they work. For more information, please refer to Program Services information for Early Intervention.

Weaving a Community Tapestry

Lydia was a 4th grade girl whose family immigrated from Mexico. Her teachers became concerned when Lydia became selectively mute at school and socially isolated. The school had a contract with Instituto, so they asked the Early Intervention Program to conduct a home visit to try to learn a little about Lydia from family. Her family struggled financially. They lived in substandard housing in a poor area of the city, and shared housing with others they didn't know in order to afford the rent. Lydia’s father dad worked in a taco truck for long hours of the day and night. The family rarely got to see or spend time with the father. The family had 4 small children besides Lydia who her mother cared for full time.

Nancy Tavolacci-Arista, a mental health specialist with the Early Intervention Program, began working with Lydia, her family, and teachers to try to understand the meaning of her behavior at school. Lydia’s mother thought her condition was the result of bullying she’d been subjected to the year before; children had made fun of Lydia because her English skills were not as good as theirs. Her mother also stated that Lydia had a relative who suffered from this same anxiety-related mutism.

Nancy's approach was to be nonjudgmental, supportive, inclusive of the family, establish rapport with Lydia’s mother, develop a supportive relationship with Lydia, and work with her teachers to establish a communication plan that would avoid further pressuring her to speak. Nancy became an on-site mentor to Lydia. With her family’s permission, Lydia was seen by a social work intern for individual therapy sessions. Lydia soon began to open up. The relationship lasted about a year with Lydia making some improvement.

Two years later, Lydia and her whole family attended IFR’s annual cultural celebration, Las Posadas. It was clear to Nancy that Lydia had grown both physically and emotionally. She was talkative and looked beautiful and strong. As a middle school student, she clearly held herself differently, with more confidence. This was by no means due solely to her work with Instituto staff, but rather the collaboration with teachers, family, and community partners working together to better understand and support this young woman.

When asked what contributed to her success with Lydia, Nancy responds, “I’ve learned to be patient with the process, and trust in the relationship with the family. Early Intervention is a powerful program because it’s school-based. It serves as a gateway for families to get other services; it’s accessible because it is based in the community, not out of a clinic. We weave ourselves into the community and the community weaves itself back into Instituto.”

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