Specialists addressing high rate of preschool expulsions in NM

Posted at: 05/28/2013 7:18 AM
Updated at: 05/28/2013 8:56 AM
By: Heather Mills, KOB Eyewitness News 4

New Mexico has one of the highest rates of preschool expulsion in the country. Specialists in UNM's Department of Psychiatry say there are several reasons for that. One, there's a high percentage of parents or caregivers with a history of substance abuse or mental illness. Two, there's a high number of immigrant families with one or both parents missing. Specialists are working on intervention and say it starts in the womb.

Rocio Quintana and her husband have their hands full with four daughters. She says being a mom is rewarding, but it's not easy. "I don't know how to be a mom, I don't know if I'm doing a good job or not," Quintana said.

Concerned when her 7-year-old started becoming more withdrawn, she brought her daughter to UNM's Young Children's Health Center in Albuquerque. "She's having lots of trouble. She's always afraid of everything," explained Quintana. She started working closely with Dr. Anilla Del Fabbro. Quintana added, "At first it was really hard for both of us and now the help they've given me, it's teaching her how to do it and teaching myself how to do it."

Now she brings all her girls to the clinic. "This happens quite often where we see one child, but we really start looking at the whole family," explained Dr. Del Fabbro. She works in UNM's Psychiatry Department and specializes in infant mental health. She says that's the foundation for healthy children and adults. The more negative, tragic events that occur in childhood, the more they had negative effects as adults such as high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, high suicide rate, substance abuse," Dr. Del Fabbro said.

"Really child psychiatry should start as early as, when moms are pregnant." Dr. Del Fabbro says that's because, whether she knows it or not, a mom can harbor emotions from her childhood and pass them down. She says behavior modification is sometimes needed, but mostly she observes and teaches parents that they already have the tools they need to make their children happy.

Quintana says asking for help wasn't easy, but it was worth it for her girls. "Nobody is going to help you if you don't ask for their help. I'm not nobody. I'm only a mom. I don't work. But I would love to see them grow up to be a doctor, a teacher."

Dr. Del Fabbro received a grant through UNM. This summer she's establishing a group for moms and caregivers, for both support and parenting education. If you'd like to take part, contact UNM's Dept. of Psychiatry.