• A Program Evaluation: Therapeutic Playgroup for Preschool-Aged Children with Mental Health Needs

      Harden, Denise M. (2010-05-11)
      The understanding of preschool children has been explored in the fields of developmental psychology and early childhood education. The field of school psychology has also increased interest in the assessment of the social and emotional functioning of preschool children (Martin, 1986). Currently, there are changes in national education policy and societal pressures for systematic, professional assessment and intervention with younger children (Executive Office of the President, 1990). In addition, focus has been placed on the incorporation of evidence-based practices into assessment and treatment (Tolan & Dodge, 2005). Mental health services, in particular, aim to address the social and emotional needs of children and families through assessment, effective intervention, and collaboration/consultation. Currently, research in preschool programs specifies the use of a developmental model to meet children’s social-emotional needs, physical well-being, motor development, language and literacy development, cognition and general knowledge, and approach to learning (National Institute for Early Education Research, 2006). This study extends the literature on effective and comprehensive mental health programs for a preschool aged population by conducting a program evaluation on the effectiveness of a therapeutic playgroup model for providing mental health services to preschool aged children who exhibit social-emotional and behavioral problems due to family stress, abuse, neglect, and possible mental disorders of children and their caregivers. This study utilizes a mixed method design which incorporates data from caregivers, playgroup teachers, child records, and participantobservers. Findings indicate the effectiveness of the Therapeutic Playgroup Program in meeting the behavioral needs of preschool children, as well as overall program goals and objectives. Teacher efficacy was directly linked to effective and efficient behavior and practices in providing mental health services to young children with challenging behaviors.