Date of Paper


Type of Paper

Clinical research paper

Degree Name

Master of Social Work (M.S.W.)


Social Work

First Advisor

Catherine Marrs Fuchsel


Social Work


The purpose of this study was to determine whether early childhood mental health services are accessible and reliable in rural northeast Iowa. Qualitative interviews were conducted with seven professionals who work with children aged three to five that have mental health needs. Nine themes were developed: (a) Believed Causes of Early Childhood Mental Health, (b) Reasons for Referral, (c) Definition of Reliable, (d) Available Resources and Limitations, (e) Barriers to Early Childhood Mental Health, (f) Location is Key: Rural Communities and the School, (g) Caregiver Mental Health and Perception, (h) Family Approach in Early Childhood Mental Health and (i) More Training, More Professionals. The findings of this study suggest while resources may be reliable, accessibility to such services is problematic because of numerous barriers such as lack of transportation, awareness and available mental health professionals. The findings also indicate a need for more professional development and training and sensitivity to the needs of small, rural communities. While this study is exploratory in nature, it holds implications for social work practice, policy and future research.

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