Light Bulb Moments

By Tuesday, November 8, 2016 Permalink 0

Laurie Schoenberg, MFT, is the first Riverside County participant in the 2016-2017 UC Davis Extension Napa Infant-Parent Mental Health Fellowship Program (IPMHFP), a highly regarded 15-month intensive, interdisciplinary training and mentoring program for professionals working with children ages 0 to 5.

Learn more about the Napa Infant-Parent Mental Health Fellowship program and how to apply.

LaurieSLaurie is now more than half way through the program. Read about her experience in her own words below.

I am truly amazed how quickly the time has passed since starting the Fellowship more than nine months ago!  My first blog reflected the first phase of the Fellowship:  Basic Skills & Core Concepts.  The Second Phase of the program – Learning with Luminaries of the field includes: faculty from the disciplines of medicine (pediatrics and psychiatry), psychology, nursing, neuroscience, education, special education, social work, occupational therapy, human development and psychoanalysis.  The speakers have been phenomenal and I am so honored for the intimate interactions the Fellows receive from the true heroes of the infant/early childhood mental health field.

I am growing and changing as a clinician and every month I return to my therapy office feeling challenged and encouraged to implement the concepts.

I must admit, I was beyond thrilled when I am became aware that Dr. Bruce Perry would be spending a three-day training session with the Fellows.  We are the first Fellowship to have his Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT) woven throughout the entire Fellowship. NMT is NOT a therapy model; it is a way to organize a child’s history (prenatally to date), parents history and current developmental functioning through an online assessment tool available.  After the information is entered, the tool gives the user a summary of brain information, developmental information and recommendations that will meet the needs of the individual client! I have completed three so far and as a result, the insight into each client is quicker and individually tailored to assist the client in their individual needs.  We are so fortunate for this gracious opportunity from Dr. Perry!

THE FIRST 5 YEARS: Local Early Learning Advocacy & Education

Over the next five years, the Riverside County Children & Families Commission (First 5 Riverside) will invest more than $69 million  to narrow a critical gap in quality early learning programs for Riverside County children through age 5. The Commission is also working closely with countywide agencies to create an early learning master plan, a quality rating and improvement system and a parent education campaign. These efforts align with current quality-focused state and national movements.

“The first 1,000 days of a child’s life – the most critical developmental period – is key to their success and education for the rest their life,” says Tammi Graham, First 5 Riverside’s executive director. “In these early years, research shows that children who participate in high-quality early care and preschool programs have better health, social-emotional and cognitive outcomes than those who don’t.”


One-on-one attention, skilled teachers, age appropriate learning toys and lessons, responsive interactions and rich conversations – all contribute to the “quality” of a child’s early learning experience.

An aspect of quality can also be the teachers and what they can bring to the center or activity, says Toni Rangel, program director for Riverside City College’s Child Development Center.

child playing with shape sorterFirst 5 Riverside funds early learning and care scholarships, professional development and support, as well as materials to increase quality and access throughout Riverside County.

Without such support through the Martha’s Village & Kitchen Child Development Program, more than 100 children would fall through the gaps. Rosa E. Torres, program manager, says families that attend the Indio center face a variety of challenges. They are the homeless, families in transitional programs, teen parents, grandparents raising grandchildren and families facing crisis such as domestic violence or unemployment.

 “These families have been through a lot, some even faced with paying for child care or rent or food,” Torres said. “Here, we provide structure and help rebuild that important family bond lost because of their circumstances.”

Adeline Munoz says First 5 Riverside support has helped her become a working mother. Jessica Castrejon, who recently found herself homeless with five children, said she is grateful for the roof over her head and child care so she can work on getting things done for her family. Meanwhile Leticia Gomez is thrilled that her 4-year-old is learning language, communicating successfully in both English and Spanish when a few years ago, he only knew Spanish.


English/Spanish Checklists: What to look for when searching for quality early learning/child care –

Riverside County Office of Education Resource & Referral: Call 800-442-4927 or visit – for referrals to licensed quality child care in Riverside County based on your needs.

Quality Start – RivCo: Learn more about professional development, coaching, incentives and more to help raise quality in early learning throughout Riverside County.

First 5 Riverside Grantee Recognized for Bright Idea

The Riverside County Department of Mental Health Children Services’ Preschool 0-5 Programs, Prevention and Early Intervention Mobile Service delivery has been selected as a “Bright Idea” in the Harvard Innovations in American Government Award Program. 

bright ideaThe Bright Ideas Initiative shines a light on noteworthy and promising government programs and practices so that government leaders, public servants, and other individuals can learn about these ideas and adopt initiatives that work. As a Bright Idea, programs receive a seal of designation, are highlighted on the Harvard Kennedy School Ash Center’s Government Innovator’s Network and are considered for an award in the future.

The Riverside County program includes parent-child interaction therapy (PCIT), where parents learn how to manage behavior challenges. Clinical research shows that behavioral and social emotional issues addressed at an early age are less likely to develop into serious mental health problems as children grow older. Three mobile treatment clinics provide therapeutic interventions to children and families in targeted communities across Riverside County. Such therapy is also practiced in the department’s First 5 Riverside-funded program.   

“We want to take the opportunity to announce and acknowledge the contribution of First 5 Riverside to the recent Bright Ideas designation,” said Mental Health Services Supervisor Anna Loza, MSW, LCSW.

Although the mobile services are a Mental Health Services Act, Prevention and Early Intervention project, Loza says First 5 Riverside provided the initial seed money for PCIT, which helped to establish this evidence-based practice within the county, which has only grown since then. Mobile services alongside other First 5 Riverside funded projects make a significant contribution to instilling within our communities opportunity for education and awareness about effective mental health services, she added.

“Expanding access for many families that would not otherwise be aware of nor benefit from prevention, early intervention and treatment services is essential if important resources for children during the critical period of early childhood development are to be readily available to families.”

The Riverside County Department of Mental Health  is one of two grantees providing services under the First 5 Riverside Growing Healthy Minds initiative. This initiative’s goal is to promote social competence by preventing and treating disruptive behavior disorders. It is designed to support a full continuum of primary prevention, screening/early identification and early intervention, and treatment interventions, targeting one or more high risk communities with the goal of significantly increasing early childhood social competence and decreasing the development of disruptive behavior disorders. Family Service Association also provides services.

Child Signature Program Teacher with Heart of Gold

As a teacher you set the tone, you set the atmosphere for the children.

photo 4Preschool teacher Sylvia Monroe’s passion, patience and love have not waned after more than 35 years of teaching toddlers.

Colleagues, mentors and superiors agree that the Coachella Valley Unified School District teacher’s heart shines, especially in her work to include children with autism in her classes at Las Palmitas and John Kelly elementary schools.

Monroe recently received the Coachella Valley Autism Society of America’s Heart of Gold Award, recognition for those who go above and beyond to enhance the life of those with autism.

“I get goose bumps when I talk about these kinds of people,” said Ifthika “Shine” Nissar, a First 5 Riverside early learning specialist who has provided technical support to Monroe for the past couple of years through the First 5 California Child Signature Program aimed at increasing the quality of early care and education. “She has incorporated suggestions and strategies with great success.”

photo 5More than 35 years ago Monroe pursued teaching for personal growth as a young parent and later professionally after working with the likes of Stan Little, a well-known early childhood development educator and advocate in the Coachella Valley.

Every year, Monroe said there is at least one or two children with autism enrolled in her classes. Some she has had to refer for assessment because they were not yet diagnosed. Yet with all, she works to give them the opportunity to be included.

Never put limitations on them. You need to have an open mind and an open heart — all they want is to be loved just like any other child.