Graduate Certificate in Early Childhood Mental Health

The Graduate Certificate in Early Childhood Mental Health (ECMH) program is sponsored jointly by UNC Charlotte’s School of Social Work and Department of Special Education and Child Development.  It is an interdisciplinary post-baccalaureate certificate program that addresses the increasing need for mental health services for children from birth to five years of age.  There is growing interest in infant and early childhood mental health; however, young children are rarely the focus of graduate training programs.  Whereas mental health work with older children emphasizes increased personal choice-making and negotiation skills, mental health work with younger children is focused on the quality of the child’s relationships, resources, and social environment.  Consequently, parents and other caretakers are a much more integral part of prevention and intervention efforts for young children.  Graduates of the EMCH certificate program will be able to:

  • Promote awareness about the importance of early childhood mental health
  • Work with diverse families with young children
  • Identify evidence-informed services for young children and their families
  • Recognize, refer, and perform ecologically valid mental health assessments of young children
  • Explain the relationships between social, cognitive, and communication development in young children
  • Support positive, relationship-focused communication between young children and their caretakers
  • Facilitate positive social-communication skills between young children and their caretakers in a variety of settings

To see a program planning sheet, refer to the link on the left-hand side of this page.   For more information on the Graduate Certificate Program, contact Ms. Amy Peters in the School of Social Work at 704-687-7924 or  You may also contact Dr. JaneDiane Smith (Child and Family Development Graduate Certificate in Early Childhood Mental Health Graduate Concentration Coordinator)  at 704-687-8850 or

For application materials, please visit

General Requirements for Admission to the Graduate School
Please refer to admission information in the “Graduate School” section of the Graduate Catalog.

Admission Requirements for Graduate Certificate Program
The ECMH certificate program welcomes professionals with a completed undergraduate or graduate degree in a human services field, including: counseling, education, early childhood special education, pediatrics, allied health services (i.e., occupational therapy, physical therapy,  speech-language pathology), psychology, and social work.  Individuals who are currently enrolled in a human service-related graduate degree program at UNC Charlotte are also welcome to apply to the ECMH certificate program.

If certificate applicants are not already enrolled in graduate courses at UNC Charlotte, they must first complete the Graduate School applications and be accepted by the UNC Charlotte Graduate School.  In addition to Graduate School requirements, admission to the Graduate Certificate in ECMH requires the following:

  1. A cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.0
  2. Three recommendations from persons knowledgeable about the applicant’s interaction skills with children and families in a professional context
  3. A 2-3 page statement of purpose

Apply online at

Students interested only in the Graduate Certificate in ECMH are not required to take the GRE or MAT.  Certificate students who later wish to apply to the M.S.W. or M.Ed. programs must follow all admissions requirements for those programs, including entrance examinations.  Successful completion of courses in the ECMH certificate program does not guarantee admission to any other UNC Charlotte graduate program.  If a certificate-only student would like to apply for admission to either the M.S.W. or M.Ed. program, the student must complete an additional graduate application.  Students can begin the ECMH certificate program during any semester. 

If an ECMH Graduate Certificate student is accepted into a master’s degree program, courses completed in the Graduate Certificate program may be applied toward the Master of Social Work program or the M.Ed. in Child and Family Studies program at the discretion of the Graduate Program Director of the program to which the student applies and in compliance with existing University policy.  However, credits earned in one certificate program may not be used to satisfy the requirements of a second certificate program.  For more information on how coursework required for the ECMH Graduate Certificate relates to programs in the Cato College of Education please contact Dr. JaneDiane Smith in the Department of Special Education and Child Development at or 704-687-8850.

Certificate Requirements
The certificate program requires a minimum of 15 graduate credit hours, including four core courses and one elective course.  Courses are typically available in the evening hours, but this can vary by semester.  Courses required for the ECMH certificate program can be taken in any order. 

Pre- and Corequisite Courses
Course prerequisites and corequisites for CHFD 6240, SPED 6242, and SOWK 7127 are waived for students completing only the Graduate Certificate in Early Childhood Mental Health.  Permission of the Graduate Program Director is required for enrollment in courses with prerequisites.

Core Courses (12 credit hours)
CHFD 6240  Advanced Studies in Infant and Child Development (3)
SOWK 6171  Early Childhood Mental Health (3)
SOWK 7127  Advanced Social Work Practice with Families (3)
SPED 6242  Enhancing Communication and Supporting Behaviors in Inclusive Settings:  B-K (3)

Elective Course (3 credit hours)
Select one of the following:
CHFD 6220  Family Theory and Research (3)
SPED 5112  Authentic Approaches to the Assessment of Young Children with Disabilities: Birth-Kindergarten (3)
SPED 6350  Young Children with Disabilities and their Families:  Interdisciplinary Collaboration (3)

Time Limits
If a certificate student is later accepted into either the M.S.W. or M.Ed. program at UNC Charlotte, all courses for the degree must be completed within six years of initial enrollment.  All courses for the Graduate Certificate in ECMH only must be completed within four years from initial enrollment in the certificate program.

For more information on the Graduate Certificate in Early Childhood Mental Health, please visit

For detailed information, admission requirements, and advising questions regarding the ECMH Graduate Certificate, please contact Ms. Amy Peters in the School of Social Work at 704-687-7924 or