When parents seek mental health services for their children, they may be ill equipped to choose the most effective approach. Even after they have obtained professional help for a child, they may not realize how valuable it can be to receive care for themselves, both for their own well-being and to help them better address the child’s needs.

Spurred by personal experiences, Lynne Singer Redleaf and her husband, Andrew Redleaf, a 1978 graduate of Yale College, wanted to directly contribute to a program dedicated to these challenges.

Lynne recalls that as she raised a son who had emotional and behavioral challenges, finding support services near her home in Minnesota was endlessly frustrating. “I have health insurance, I have connections, I have intellectual resources,” she says. “And yet I had a lot of trouble finding help for my son.” Lynne wanted other families to have an easier path.

So, this year the Redleafs gave $10 million to the medical school’s Child Study Center (CSC) to support the launch of its Parent and Family Development Program (PFDP). Established in March, the PFDP is a collaborative hub of integrated clinical services for parents across disciplines and departments, including child and adult psychiatry, pediatrics, perinatal medicine, psychology, genetics, neurobiology, and neuroimaging.

During a visit to Yale, the Redleafs met with CSC researchers and learned about Minding the Baby, a collaboration between Yale and the city of New Haven that brings together home visiting teams to promote physical and mental health, and improved attachment outcomes in babies, mothers, and their families.

The PFDP focuses on the adult transition to parenthood and provides services that address parents’ needs, says Linda C. Mayes, M.D., the Arnold Gesell Professor of Child Psychiatry, Pediatrics, and Psychology and director of the CSC. “We bring together services that are specifically for parents, focusing on how their needs are met, with the understanding that that in turn facilitates meeting the child’s needs,” Mayes says.

Through PFDP, parents are able to receive job skills training and educational opportunities, and to learn skills that can help them build healthier social interactions. By coordinating these efforts, the center allows parents to obtain comprehensive care in one place.

Mayes and Megan V. Smith, Ph.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of psychiatry, are co-directors of the PFDP. Both will be involved with academic research intended to inform the program’s methods and demonstrate its efficacy.